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Planning begins for future projects

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Money matters are never far from the minds or meeting agendas of New Castle school board members.

It’s hard to pay teachers, protect students and take care of buildings, after all.

The school board voted Monday to move forward with a new three-year $3 million bond that will help a number of construction projects around the district.

The new bond will pay to improve security at Eastwood and Parker Elementary Schools, build an additional parking lot at New Castle Middle School and help fund new tennis courts at the high school.

A portion of the bond money will also be set aside to help with general upkeep of the buildings, roofs and sidewalks, as needed.

The new bond will replace an older bond the school corporation is about to pay off. The New Castle school central office said the new debt will not increase the local tax rate.

The school board accepted a bid Monday on the new weight room going into the auxiliary guy in the Fieldhouse. The bid was low enough to include additional pieces to the project and stay under budget.

Assistant Superintendent Lisa Smith said there was about $1.3 million budgeted for the project. The base bid was $725,000, with additional plans bringing that total up to $950,000.

The new plans will pay for a new HVAC system and necessary fire code updates for the new weight room.

Along with getting a new weight room, New Castle High School students will also now get a new wrestling room. 

The New Castle school board formally approved a resolution Monday to support a plan they already put into place to increase New Castle teacher pay.

Superintendent Dr. Matt Shoemaker explained Indiana legislatures passed a state budget that allowed state funds to cover some of the cost local schools were paying into the Teacher Retirement Fund (TRF).

New Castle Community School Corporation saved $140,000 because of that, Shoemaker said.

Last month, the New Castle school board approved a new insurance plan that included $3,000 increase to teacher base pay and a contribution to the health savings accounts.

“Part of the $140,000 was added in there,” Shoemaker told his board Monday.

The resolution was to show the state the TRF savings went back to teachers, Shoemaker said. The vote was 4-0-1 with board member Kim Williamson abstaining.

The New Castle school board also passed resolutions Monday approving stipends for non-certified staff under the new insurance plan.

Non-certified staff who are eligible for school insurance will receive two $800 stipends by the end of the calendar year. Non-certified, non-eligible staff will receive a $300 stipend.

Non-certified staff with health savings accounts will also receive a one-time $500 contribution to those accounts.

The school board agreed Monday to table discussion on setting up new funds at the Henry County Community Foundation for special projects at the schools.

The genesis for the idea came from community action to buy new bleachers for the Fieldhouse. Donations from that effort go to a account at the Community Foundation.

Shoemaker met with all the building principals make a priority list of other possible funds that could be created.

Once established, those funds would let donors give money specifically to the New Castle Career Center, student financial support, robotics and STEM, school safety and the performing arts.

School board member Nan Polk found in her research that the Foundation needs active donors to first come forward with a large initial contribution before they can create the dedicated funds.

The special funds are on hold until New Castle schools have those donors ready.

The New Castle school board meets again at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 in the central office, 322 Elliott Ave. This is a change from the original schedule due to Fall Break.