Committee seeks more information
By Ben Rodgers
A committee ultimately decided to table a decision that would outsource the district’s bussing at a Thursday, June 8 meeting.
“I recommend the school district outsource our transportation to maximize efficiency and reestablish procedures and protocol that would be beneficial to the district,” said Carmen O’Brien, Manawa School District business manager. “Ultimately it is a board decision as to whether or not you’d like to keep that service in house or outsource it to a company where that would be their only job to the district.”
Helene Pohl, finance committee chair, said a choice that impacts employees and has a large financial impact should be discussed more.
“Because it is such an important decision and it involves half a million dollars I’m going to make a motion we table this decision until the next finance committee in July,” Pohl said.
Pohl was also absent from the May meeting when this issue was first brought up.
O’Brien said the time to act is now, as the move to outsource would involve selling the current fleet. This would mean a more consistent tax levy for district shareholders.
“I did go over the fact that by selling our fleet in this fiscal year, which is the only reason I’m pushing it at this point, is we do benefit in our state aid calculations,” she said. “Basing aid on the previous year’s budget, it helps us to keep the tax levy even. Basically is what we’re looking at doing, we’re in danger in having a huge drop in our tax levy only to have it go back up again the following year, due to our energy efficiency carry over.”
For the past two years the district has taken advantage of a program that allows it to go over the revenue cap as long as the building projects are for energy efficiency.
At a special school board meeting on May 30 the board approved to spend up to, but not exceed $2.2 million on energy efficiency projects over a number of years. It did this just before the deadline for approval.
Pohl said she was hoping for more solid numbers from Madison on school funding not tied to any energy efficiency projects next month.
“The legislature is still debating how much money we will be getting next year. As of this afternoon there is a discrepancy of $90 million. Part of it will affect us,” she said.
Prior to the open portion of Thursday’s meeting the committee met in closed session for more than an hour to interview representatives from Kobussen and Lamers.
One bus driver at the meeting said drivers don’t have enough information as to what will happen if the outsourcing is completed.
“I don’t think we’ve been informed enough on it,” said Vern Shover, bus driver. “I realize you are the board and you take care of things, but we haven’t been informed enough on what’s going to happen.”
The finance committee will meet again to discuss this issue at 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 3.
The committee also got an update on health insurance from Mary Basel senior account executive and partner executive benefits, M3 Insurance, the district’s health insurance consultant.
Basel said she received bids from different insurance carriers and the projected 20 percent cost increase actually came in lower at 15.7 percent. Basel said she could lower that even more.
However, by disclosing medical conditions of the group many carriers did not make an offer. Humana did make an inflated offer based on the group’s conditions but that was for $1,600 a month for an individual and $6,000 a month for a family.
Still Basel could get the 15.7 percent increase on the WEA Trust plan down to roughly 10 percent by increasing co-pays and deductibles.
The other option would be to go with a HMO plan, which would limit the providers group members could see.
“I have seen school districts do it,” Basel said of the HMO switch. “Budgets are tight and they said we have to do it and people will just have to suck it up and go out of network if they want to go their providers.”
The committee still has a few months before needed to make a recommendation to the full board.
Finally, the committee agreed to recommend a 10 cent increase for hot lunch meals, based on calculations from the Department of Public Instruction.