Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Decatur School Board Meets Tonight - Much On Plate

The Decatur Township School Board meets tonight, first in executive session and followed by the regular monthly meeting. No word on whether the executive session will be a catered affair, as per usual, despite the economic hard times.

The agenda is posted here, but contains little information for the public to know what actually will be discussed and voted upon.

Central Office retirements will be buried in item 5.0 "Staff Report". Gary Pellico, Candace Milhon-Baer, Pat Jones, Dave Rather, as well as West Newton Principal, Janet Larch, are all taking their leave of the district. Jeff Baer's retirement was previously announced. Will the retirement incentive packages for these Administrators be discussed in public? Not likely.

Also buried in that staff report will be the layoff of a security officer, as Susan Adams firmly believes that blurry camera footage may not avert crime, but it is cheap and like outgoing Jeff Baer maintains, that's why you have insurance anyway. The Board will not likely discuss how effective cameras are at decreasing tempers at after school functions, giving guidance to youths who could follow many paths to adulthood, and providing immediate response to threatening situations. The latter is one of the many duties that Susan Adams thinks is the responsibility of the custodians, after all. When it comes to security, this Administration has let Adams run amok and to the detriment of all of the students, staff, and anyone of the public who attends events in our schools.

Hopefully buried in the staff report is the resignation of Don Stinson. This one item will get aired with all the usual self congratulatory, fact twisting, ego trip that normally accompanies all Board activities.

Somewhat buried is a fiscal matter for which I have been unable to get all of my questions answered. If and when I do get further information I will post it here. But, this is what I have at this point.

Agenda items 6.02 (Impact of 2010 Circuit Breaker on Marion County Schools), 6.03 (Resolution Approving Transfer to Rainy Day Fund), and 6.04 (Additional Appropriation Resolution), involve moving money from the debt service fund into the rainy day fund followed by the appropriation of money from the rainy day fund for ongoing operations. As you will recall, the Board has not always insisted on approving, in a public meeting and as required by law, all new appropriation of expenses that arise during the year that were not so appropriated during the annual budget hearings. So, this is a move in the right (as in legal) direction.

For the fiscal issues, let me backtrack for a minute into the outlines of what we are taxed on and how schools are now funded in Indiana. Changed from the old ways, schools are now fully funded by the State for operating expenses. This would include salaries, catered school board meals, electricity, and the like. Property taxes are now only levied to cover the amount of principle and interest owed on debt that year (debt service fund), the amount of principle and interest owned on debt encumbered to make pension fund contributions (school pension debt fund), money needed to cover routine building repairs (capital projects fund), and money to replace aging buses (bus replacement fund). For 2010, the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, certified a property tax amount of roughly $12.9 million for debt service, $0.7 million for school pension debt, $3.7 million for capital projects, and $2.1 million for bus replacement, for MSD Decatur Township school district.

Item 6.02 (Impact of 2010 Circuit Breaker on Marion County Schools), will be where Dr. Baer talks about how the tax caps are cutting into how much of that certified levy will NOT be poured into MSD Decatur coffers and must be obtained by transferring money from operating expenses (general fund) to the debt service fund; for by State law, debt must be paid first and then you can spend any other money you have left on ongoing operations. The enormous debt of this school district for the size of the tax base is the cause of much of the budget cuts recently made in the district.

As far as logic goes, this is where things begin to break down.

Item 6.03 (Resolution Approving Transfer to Rainy Day Fund), will ask the Board to approve the transfer of $6.2 million FROM debt service TO the rainy day fund. The rainy day fund is a fund set up to receive excess, unspent money from the other funds, and from which those excess monies may be transferred to a fund with a shortfall. The act of transferring money from debt service to the rainy day fund suggests that this money is excess, which is absurd at this point. I have asked if this is to forgo getting another tax anticipation loan (AKA 'temporary loan'), and Gary Pellico answered that was how he understood it - not a definitive answer to my question. If this proves to be true, it could save the taxpayers interest payments on that loan, but it still does not fully explain why so much money is sitting in the debt service fund when the district has been saying it had to come up with budget cuts which included, among other things, $3 million to pay the interest on the 2009 tax anticipation loan.

Item 6.04 (Additional Appropriation Resolution), will combine the $6.2 million just transferred from the debt service fund with $1.7 million currently sitting in the rainy day fund, and appropriate it for paying ongoing operating expenses - salaries and the like.

Now this last item is a public hearing and the public has the legal right to be heard in the matter. The legally required public notice, published on May 26, says the following:
Notice is hereby given the taxpayers of MSD Decatur Township, Marion County, Indiana, that the School Board will consider the following additional appropriation in excess of the budget for the current year at their regular meeting place at 5275 Kentucky Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46221, at 7:00 pm., on the 8th day of June, 2010, per IC 6-1.1-18-5.
Rainy Day Fund $7,900,000
Taxpayers appearing at the meeting shall have a right to be heard. The additional appropriations as finally made will be referred to the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF). The DLGF will make a written determinations to the sufficiency of funds to support the appropriations made within fifteen (15) days of receipt of a certified copy of the action taken.
Dated: May 26, 2010
Bob Harris
Chief Financial Officer
10-6048--5:24 (3)

Now if these funds are eventually repaid to the debt service fund when future operating funds are received from the State , then this transfer is temporary and makes sense. If not, then it could be digging the Decatur taxpayer into a bigger hole, even as the district has already laid off a score of teachers and accepted about 30 early retirements. We shall have to await more answers before we can be sure which is the situation.


Anonymous said...

http://blog.al.com/live/2010/06/stinson_withdraws_from_superin.html Stinson turned down Alabama job!

Anonymous said...

Yes, according to the Alabama board president who was contacted by e-mail, he stated he was rejecting offer due to "personal reasons at a critical time in my life." Stinson will stress that it was a great job offer??????

Too bad - it is a critical time for all of the children in Decatur Township. Guess he has personal reasons that have happened in the past week???

Hope many attend the board meeting tonight. Everyone needs to let the board know that they demand improvement in communication and that communication is a two-way street.

Anonymous said...

Channel 6 online also has this report. Sad, rainy day for Decatur. Just hope the Decatur board didn't make him a new $$$$ offer to stay.

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI- all salaries (teachers, admins, etc) and their retirement packages are public knowledge since we pay them with our taxes. If the school will not give the info you just have to contact the county auditor for that info.

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 1:30 -- Auditor, eh? Good to know.

Anonymous said...

i see under the agenda for tonights board meeting that there is mention of use of old bus garage by webster. does anyone know what that is about? i have heard rumors about what webster wants but surely they won't let him have his private lessons and make money on school property

Anonymous said...

Yes they will. He has been doing it all along.

Anonymous said...

Auditor's office keeps copies of all public employee's wages. For example, any one working in the city county building we pay, jail workers, city leaders, etc. All wages paid with our tax dollars are public knowledge. If Stinson won't give it to you, you can run down to the city county building and get it your self (I think that's where the auditor is, used to be anyway).

Anonymous said...

Has anyone wondered about playgrounds at the DILC? Currently there are none appropriate for 1-5th graders. I also heard that there are steps the kids will have to walk down with full trays, is this true?

Anonymous said...

I have been told that playground equipment has been ordered for the DILC. There is a ramp in the cafeteria so I would assume that they will have the younger students use that. I was also told that the locks on the lockers would be disabled for the younger students. They would still have the door on them to use as a cubby.

Anonymous said...

what were the results to last nights meeting? did anyone go?

Anonymous said...

Were board members and administrators fed before the board meeting last night since taxpayers had fed them at a retirement feast in the afternoon???

Phil Webster said...

The proposal that I made to use the bus garage for an athletic enhancement complex was turned down by the school board. I had asked the school board to lease the two building to me for a dollar a year. I was going to borrow over 200 thousand dollars to buy indoor carpet, batting cages, nets along with other equipment that could be used by township teams to increase their athletic skills. This would allow them to compete with the best teams in the state. It would be used by a variety of sports including baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, track and field ,tennis and other spring sports that lack places to train in the winter. It would have been used not only by the high school athlete but it would have been available to youth groups such as travel teams. We had even thought of using some of the space for an athletic day care for pre school children to develop their physical talents at a very early age. I believe that in order for the youth of our community to compete at the highest level we need something like this athlete enhancement facility.

It was not and I repeat It was not a place for me to make money on lessons. You may not know that there is very little money in the athletic budget for our sports teams. The State of Indiana does not allow the school board to purchase equipment for extra curricular activities. This requires teams to constantly fund raise for equipment so they can compete with other communities that may have more money. When I gave lessons I was working for our booster club by giving them 20 percent of every lesson I gave. This amounted to almost 1000 dollars that went to purchase equipment for the baseball team. The school board turned down my proposal and I am told they are going to use the building for storage. I have always been honest and up front with the board on all of my lessons and clinics that I have run while I have been the baseball coach.
I am sorry that some of you think that somehow I am robbing the taxpayer because I charge for lessons. I receive about 8,000 dollars from the school board for coaching baseball and It is a year round job. Next year I will attempt to find a place off campus to give lessons so there are no signs of any impropriety. I will attempt to find somewhere else to give lessons . If I can not find a place then I will not give lessons.
Does anyone know where I can go and get a piano lesson for free. How about free guitar lessons. If a parent wants to have a teacher tutor their child after school or on a weekend do you think that they might expect to pay for the teachers service. If an electrician does work for the school are they going to give the school a bill for there service or will they not charge them because their child goes to that school.
I think get it now. Only the baseball coach who has spent money on his own training should do things for free

Anonymous said...

Nobody expects you to do anything for free, Coach. We just object to you trying to scam yourself a dollar-a-year building from the taxpayers to turn a buck while we pay the utilities and upkeep. Perhaps, if you renew your efforts to pimp a referendum to throw more cash in Stinson's lap, he...uh...that is, his well-fed and party-hearty school board will...um...look more favorably on your business proposal. You know...sort of a quid pro quo?

Phil Webster said...

My proposal was not a scam. I was going to pay the utilities and the up keep. The school corporation is going to moth ball the building and will not spend any money on the building. They do the same thing with the Goodwin Center. I was also told that I would have to give up my teaching position and fringe benefits. This would have saved them even more money. If the building were used by athletes instead of storage the community would be better off serving young people instead of sitting empty.
My support of the referendum had nothing to do with my proposal to operate the bus garage. they were mutually exclusive. I would hope that the administration and school board would spend money and hire a person to run an athletic enhancement facility operating out of the bus garage. They could spend money on equipment and utilities and hire a director. That would be better than allowing a facility on our campus to just sit empty storing things.

I am not a referendum pimp. Some communities have passed referendums to help stem the tide so that young people can have the advantage of the same education that you had. It must be easy for you to sit and write calling people names that offer solutions. You can rest assured that the proposal that I made is dead and I will not be giving lessons on the school campus. Regardless of the boards decision I still support the work that they are doing to increase the educational opportunities for the children in our community. There is no quid pro quo

Anonymous said...

Ah...so you learned your lesson: Nobody will be milking the MSD Decatur cash cow except Stinson and his fat-cat cronies. You should be grateful for the sweet deal they've already thrown your way, Coach. After all, you failed to convince the Jerry Springer trailer trash here on this forum to get behind a referendum to send Stinson and his pals more of our kids' money. Cash the MSD's check and enjoy your retirement/consultant money. Just remember that there are limits to the gifts that Don the Bountiful Father will shower you with if you don't produce. Quid pro quo, my boy, quid pro quo.

Anonymous said...

Phil, I would have supported it. I agree the old bus garage is better to be used for something than for storage. I think a low cost lease, as you suggest, is appropriate given the student-athletes would benefit.

And there is no inherent problem charging people for lessons, but there is a conflict of interest when done on public school property.

Anonymous said...

@ Phil Webster June 21, 2010 2:09 AM

You mentioned your plan to borrow over $200,000,that's a very large loan/debt. I'm obviously out of the loop,because I just cannot see a reasonable return on such an investment.

Did you submit a business plan to the bank when seeking loan approval/qualification?

What was your business plan if I may ask?

Phil Webster said...

I did not seek a bank loan because I was waiting for the approval of my proposal by the school board. If the board had approved my proposal I would have submitted my business proposal for a bank loan of 200,000 dollars. The loan would have been used to take the abandoned space and convert it to a athletic enhancement facility. I would have had to cover the floors with athletic carpet and increased the lighting. The back building would need to be heated and machines and netting would need to be purchased so that teams and individuals could work out increasing their skills in their chosen sport.
Teams and individuals would be charged to use the facilities and lessons would be offered for a fee. I had thoughts of creating a day care during the day. The emphasis of the day care would be used to develop the tactile and kinesthetic skills in pre school children. If you would ever go through this facility you would see how much space is available that could be used by boys and girls to increase their skills. One thing that I find that is sad in Decatur Township is how little things there are for kids to do in Decatur Township. This building is located on the high school campus and easily accessible to our kids. If the board does not want this building to be leased to a private individual for development I would hope they would see the merit of the building being used for athletic enhancement and that kids would benefit more than the benefit of using it as a storage facility for equipment.

Anonymous said...


This board doesn't want any of the school grounds used by the community. As you might remember, back in the good-ol-days (70's or so), our lives here in Decatur revolved around 3 basic things: Family, church and school. Heck, we used to go on picnics on the school grounds! Remember the picnic tables? Remember where they were at? It was a great place to gather and meet friends....generations of friends. Remember the concrete pads where we used to fly model airplanes on strings? Anyone remember meeting at the school to wax our cars under the trees? Try any of the above NOW....anyone want to bet you'd be arrested or ran off the grounds? Sorry; this board is NOT "of the community for the community". Your idea would have been a good one. Heck why not an indoor mini-golf too LOL!

Anonymous said...

I remember the 1970's.

The pool at DCHS was open to the public during the summer. My friends and I would ride our bikes to the school and spend the afternoon swimming. I think the cost was 75 cents or a dollar.

Anonymous said...

Fat chance that anything like that will happen anytime soon now that Diamond Don put Susan "Honey" Adams in charge of the buildings and grounds several years ago. If Susan doesn't like you or your group, you won't get to use any of the school facilities for any purpose. You want her to like you, you gotta pay her tariff. If your group has the political clout to use a school building for a community meeting in spite of Honey's wishes, she'll show her displeasure by shutting the air conditioning off so you swelter uncomfortably during your meeting. That or "forget" to use her computer-control to unlock the door so you can't get in the building at the appointed time, leaving you having to call for the security officer to let you in the door. I don't know how we're supposed to get in the building now that "Honey" has laid off the evening shift school cop. It's sickening that a school system that used to be a warm, friendly place we all could enjoy and be proud of has turned into a mafioso shake-down operation run for the benefit of fat-cat administrators and catered dinner, junketing board members.

Anonymous said...

Jeez...I can see why you'll never get yourself that job you wanted in the Central Office, Coach Phil. (You do remember telling us here a few months ago that you'd like to get a job in our MSD Administration, saying you have a lot to offer.) You probably scared the wits out of Stinson and his cronies on the school board by saying you planned on dumping $200,000 (of your own money) into a building (that doesn't belong to you) for the benefit of nameless township kids with no expectation of making a profit for yourself, or at least breaking even. While donating $200,000 to the children is a self-less and noble thing to do, you have to understand that Stinson and his fellow cake-eaters on the school board would naturally think you're nuts for passing up on the chance to skim the cream off the top of your proposed business enterprise. If you instead built up a nice for-profit business in that old building, and made sure you shared the juice with the right people, you might see them view you more as a kindred spirit, and perhaps come around enough to find a Central Office job for you, too. Imagine living the sweet life.

If you build it, they will come around...