Mayer: SB 25 looms, action needed

Mayer: SB 25 looms, action needed by M. Jill Karolevitz Superintendent of Schools Robert Mayer discussed his concerns about a proposed bill in the South Dakota Legislature with the Vermillion School Board Monday night, recommending the board take action as soon as possible, should the bill be passed.

Senate Bill 25 would prohibit the transfer of revenue from a school district�s general fund to the capital outlay fund.

�If it passes, this could have serious consequences,� Mayer said.

Without the ability to transfer those funds, the Vermillion School District may not be able to complete several planned projects without borrowing money. The projects include air conditioning at the high school and Jolley School and re-roofing Jolley School. A contingency fund of $150,000 for the high school construction � which may or may not be needed for unanticipated problems there � could also be jeopardized.

�In light of SB 25, members of the board need to seriously look at how many dollars are needed for the projects and how they intend to pay for them,� Mayer said.

Johnson Controls has estimated that air conditioning Jolley School would cost about $130,000. The high school estimate is $104,000. The price tag for re-roofing Jolley School has not been estimated by a contractor, however, it is anticipated it could range from $125,000 to $250,000. Bids will be taken out Feb. 29.

�If you�re going to transfer any funds to capital outlay for these projects, you need to consider doing it soon, as we look at the possibility of this bill passing,� Mayer told school board members.

The school district�s capital outlay fund has a $388,000 reserve. Prior to the possible passage of SB 25, Mayer recommended that the school board use $300,000 for the projects and the contingency fund, leaving $88,000 in reserve �which we feel we can live with,� Mayer said.

The discussion then turned to transferring $300,000 from the general fund to capital outlay to finish financing the projects.

The superintendent had spoken about SB 25 with Sen. John �Joe� Reedy, who told Mayer that SB 25 �probably won�t pass,� Mayer said. �But Joe also said that anything can happen in Pierre.

�SB 25 is looming,� Mayer continued. �If it passes, it�s seriously going to curtail your ability to fund these projects. If it doesn�t pass, I�ll be sitting here with egg on my face. But at some point, we�ll have to cross this bridge.�

Mayer was also concerned that the bill would contain an emergency clause if it passed, which would put it into effect immediately; hence the urgency in his recommendation to the school board.

Tom Craig, school board president, however, voiced some hesitation.

�I would like to sit on this and think about it for a week or so before taking any action,� he said. �For one thing, it would put the negotiating team in a compromising position if we were to take money from the general fund and put it into capital outlay, then say we can�t afford a 3 percent increase in salaries.�

Board member Nick Merrigan was also concerned about making a rushed decision.

�Before we do anything we need to look at next year�s budget ? but we shouldn�t panic,� he said. �We don�t want to get caught with the law if it passes, but I would like to hold off on making any major decisions until we�ve had a chance to look into it a little more.�

Mayer also outlined several other education bills that may be considered by the South Dakota Legislature during the 2000 session:

? HB 1200 � An act to require criminal background checks of school employees and to prohibit employment of certain persons in schools.

? HB 1210 � An act to modify contract renewal provisions for school district food service purchases.

? HB 1261 � An act to permit schools to display the Ten Commandments.

? SB 115 � An act to establish a teacher merit pay program and to make an appropriation therefor.

The school board also heard an update on the alternative school program for grades kindergarten through nine.

�We interviewed for the teacher and tutor positions a week ago,� said Vermillion Middle School Principal Pat Anderson. �We have a recommendation for you for both positions.

�Once staffing is approved by the board, we plan to send the teacher and tutor to Watertown to visit the alternative school there to gather information,� he continued. �We�re also looking at the possibility of training at Boys Town in Omaha for social skills and intervention.�

The alternative school could be up and running by Feb. 1, he added.

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