BIG HORN — The Sheridan County School District 1 Board of Trustees met Tuesday and discussed a number of financial documents and policies concerning the upcoming school year.
District business manager Jeremy Smith reviewed the district’s five-year facilities plan.
The plan reflected all major maintenance and capital construction, anticipated expenditures and balances.
In 2014, $95,000 was budgeted from the major maintenance funds for fire alarm upgrades.
In the 2015 school year, a total of $905,000 is budgeted to be spent with $125,00 being allocated to districtwide tech equipment replacements; $450,000 going to a roof replacement at Tongue River Elementary; $300,000 planned for the resurfacing of the asphalt in the southwest side of the parking lot at Tongue River Middle School; $20,000 for acreage development at Big Horn Middle/High School and $10,000 reserved for a TRMS kitchen upgrade.
With $1,150,000 in available funds, the district projects they will exit year one of the plan with a $245,000 surplus.
Smith noted that the amount of major maintenance money coming in from the state has changed to $400,000 annually due to a change in the calculations used as well as the addition of acreage to the school holdings.
He also added that changes would be coming for the plan to accommodate future incorporations such as potentially required practice space for newly added sports.
The five-year plan calls for total project costs of $3,243,000, leaving a final deficit of $28,000.
The benefits paid to district employees will be changing next year after a split vote by the board.
The insurance premiums will rise 20 percent next year due to a claim-heavy year for the district.
“We do not have the funds to increase salary to offset this increase with district contributions,” Smith said. “A 20 percent premium increase is a buttkicker. Across the board everyone’s take-home pay decreased last year and to do that to them again this year is just not OK.”
In an effort to not have employees take-home pay negatively impacted, multiple options for restructuring the current benefits package were investigated.
In the past, the district’s contributions to the plan of $1.4 million was divided evenly amongst all employees each month.
Beginning next year, Smith recommended differentiating between single plans and family plans based on research and analysis of the impact each would have on the majority of the staff.
By differentiating between the plans, those employees enrolled in an employee-only plan would receive a contribution from the district of $620 and those enrolled in family coverage would receive $870. With no differentiation every employee would receive a $795 contribution.
Without differentiating, the 75 percent of employees who choose the family coverage would see an average decrease in their monthly take-home pay of $300-600 and single-person coverage would see no decrease. With the differentiation, all take-home pays remain close to current amounts but see a slight decrease in contributions to health savings accounts from the district.
At first the board failed to act on the proposed plans, as no motion was presented until after a plea from Smith to consider a motion immediately.
“I’ve got to tell you, we have agonized over this decision,” he said. “You pay us to make informed decisions and we employed a bunch of smart people to help and this is the only plan we can really push forward with.”
He added that when reviewing what other schools are doing, the overwhelming majority differentiates contributions.
After some questions and answers between Smith and the board, a motion was made to select the recommended plan to differentiate and the motion was passed with Penny Barkan, board treasurer, voting against it.
Employees will receive additional retirement benefits as the amount paid into the retirement funds by the district will increase from the current 14.62 percent of gross salary contribution to 15.87 percent.
The current retirement system in place does not ask for retirement contributions from employees but rather calls for the district to cover 100 percent of the investment. However, anticipated legislation stating employees are required to make part of the investment from their annual salary will likely change that structure in the future.
Smith noted if this change occurred, the money being invested by the employee instead of the district would be added back into the employees salary plan.