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School board sets aside $350,000 from rainy day fund

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

The South Henry School Board is addressing some safety concerns with Tri High School while also sprucing up the building.

Tuesday night’s board meeting included a public hearing about letting the South Henry School Corporation use $350,000 from the rainy day fund to help buy new bleachers in the high school gym.

The schools board also wants to use some of the money to help cover construction costs that carried over from projects last year.

There were no comments or concerns from the public.

The school board voted unanimously to adopt the resolution that would let them earmark the money.

“We’re going to get the appropriation out there. We’re not necessarily going to use it,” SHSC Board President Casey Carmichael said, “but we’re going to have it appropriated so we can use it if it becomes necessary.”

The rainy day money is a backup plan. The South Henry School Board may also cover Tri High projects with a loan from Indiana’s Common School Fund.

The school board spent the majority of their meeting Tuesday whittling down a list of maintenance projects that corporation grounds and maintenance manager Phyllis Roland had come up with.

By shortening the project list, the school board decreased the number of job quotes Roland has to solicit for them.

The consensus was that South Henry will focus on improving security at Tri High School, replace the wooden bleachers, interior lights, painting and ceiling tiles. They also want to replace leaky bathroom faucets that keep running up utility costs.

Roland explained that the lighting and ceiling tiles are important because they perk up the building and boost employee morale.

Tri High School Principal Chris Stilwell and Tri Elementary School Principal Nick Kimmel also told the school board that new area families and potential teachers tour the building. A fresh interior can sell them on a place to learn or work, Stilwell said.

Now that the school board has narrowed their project focus, Roland will seek out final quotes.

The school board will set a special meeting before the end of the month to decide if they will apply for the Common School Fund loan and how much they may request.

South Henry School Corporation Superintendent Wes Hammond explained that if the school corporation uses the state loan, there will be a “negligible” impact on local taxpayers.

The money will be paid out of the South Henry debt service fund. This money comes from property taxes, Hammond said.

The school board members could also choose to use just a portion of the rainy day fund money to pay for the new bleachers.

Indiana schools put money in their rainy day funds out of their general fund. That money is tied to student enrollment.

School board member Randy Paul said he would prefer using money out of the rainy day fund before increasing the burden on local property taxpayers through a loan.

Melissa Jeffries, another board member, wants to make sure that the quotes are firm before they get into any more projects.

The Courier-Times will continue following the board actions as they move through the process.

In other business Tuesday, the South Henry School Corporation is working with the South Henry Regional Waste District to help save the schools money in drainage costs.

Business manager Amy Milner also told the school board that the district is right on track with its spending this year.

“We will not go over our appropriations,” Milner said.

Milner to the board that South Henry schools are also ahead of other Indiana schools as the state prepares to change the way it does education funding.

Milner explained that changes are also on the way from the federal level due to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

These changes are supposed to make school spending more transparent to the public, Milner said.

“I think it’s trying to give a little local control back,” Hammond said.

Milner plans to give the school board more details of the funding changes in May.

The next regular South Henry School Board meeting is at 7 p.m. May 8 in the Tri High School library, 6972 Ind. 103, Straughn.