Posen hopeful to get enrollment up to see state aid increase

POSEN – Thanks to a boost in state aid, Posen Consolidated Schools is set to get roughly $35,000 more for the 2014-15 school year.

That’s if the district can get the enrollment numbers it’s anticipating. So far, 221 students will be attending next year, Superintendent John Palmer said Monday at the board of education meeting. It’s down from 239 at the end of the 2013-14 school year. He’s hoping to see more students sign up before the new year starts, including a number of foreign exchange students.

Out of the $201-per-pupil increase Posen should receive, the district must pay $50 toward retirement costs, Palmer said. It’s the first such increase the district has seen in a number of years, and it could mean the district will have an $80,000 fund equity at the end of the coming school year.

But sliding enrollment could blunt this increase, and a small incoming class won’t help. Out of 16 possible new kindergartners, only 10 have signed up so far, Palmer said. Board member Anna Soik asked what would happen if the district didn’t have enough kindergartners to justify a class. Palmer said there are options available, but held back on the details.

“We’ve got some ideas, but you don’t want to throw those out until you really know what’s going on,” Palmer said. “Otherwise it’s confusing to people.”

As it is, parents still have time to enroll their children, Palmer added.

With so many building and equipment improvements made in recent years, board member Andy Stone suggested advertising to promote them. The district has new buses, computers, carpeting in some areas and is improving the security setup for its main entrance.

Board members approved a few more upgrades Monday, and held off on another. They voted unanimously to replace carpet in the elementary library and a classroom for $4,883, and to refurbish most external doors for $10,325. However, they opted to wait on two contracts to add an electric lock and release, plus monitors for a camera already in place. They want to look into a few items, including hooking the cameras into the school’s computer network.

Many of the upgrades have been paid for by a taxpayer-supported sinking fund. Palmer said the district still has about $30,000 until November, when taxpayers replenish the fund for another year. The district can carry forward any unspent balance.

“We’ve sent a couple letters out to parents and advertised a little bit,” he said. “We’re putting together a big one very shortly to let people know what has happened here with the schools, to know what they’ve done with upgrading the schools.”

In other business:

* board members approved Palmer’s contract, at the same pay rate as last year. The district will pay him $86,000 this year, including $1,000 per month for travel and other expenses. Board President Ken Wozniak said the board agreed to the same total amount with the itemized stipend to cover expenses. Palmer will stay on as superintendent through June 30, 2015, and the board will revisit whether to seek a new head administrator in January.

* the district will seek to refund a 2005 bond issue to save the community $130,592, Palmer said. Board members approved a resolution to the bond finance agency that handled the original issue, asking the firm to start the refunding process. The actual refunding won’t happen until February 2015.

* board member Mitch Mulka won’t run for reelection in November, he said. After nine years on the board, he decided he didn’t want to run for another four.

* board members approved hiring teacher Greg Pietsch as head football coach and Nicholas Idalski as assistant coach. They also approved hiring Carrie Sobeck as the part-time high school secretary.

* board members voted to renew the district’s contract with its bus mechanic, at $50 per hour plus parts. Wozniak said it has already saved the district money over its previous arrangement, although its newer buses do need less maintenance.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.