Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 19, 2014

Highland approves budget

By Xiomara Levsen | Apr 09, 2013

RIVERSIDE — The Highland Community School District School Board approved the budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year and approved a bid for a new school bus.
The first item the school board approved was the budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. A public hearing was held at 7 p.m. during the meeting.
The budget is estimated to be at $4,864,724 for instructional services; $2,749,884 for support services; $279,000 for non-instructional programs; and $1,193,467 for other expenditures such as facilities acquisition and construction, according to the minutes from the school board meeting in March. This is with a total tax asking of $3,575,383 and a tax rate of $17.25 per $1,000 assessed valuation.
Since there was no public comment, school board member Becky Hanson motioned for approval of the 2013-14 fiscal year budget.
“This is the worst case scenario right?” school board member Nick Smith said.
The state Legislature hasn’t approved the education bill for the 2013-14 fiscal year, so Highland Community School District published their budget at a higher rate.
“The target rate is $16.50 (per $1,000 assessed valuation),” Superintendent Chris Armstrong said. “Once everything is settled then we will adjust the numbers so we can adjust down.”
The motion passed unanimously.
The next public hearing was about purchasing a new school bus. Unlike the budget hearing, there were people in attendance who wanted to speak on the topic.
“We’ve been updating our fleet,” Armstrong said, “so it’s a necessary expense.”
Two motions were needed to continue. One was needed to authorize the purchase of transportation equipment over $50,000. School board member Cindy Michel made that motion. The motion passed with no dissenting votes.
After that the school board discussed whom they would like to purchase the bus from. The school district received four bids.
One bid was from Thomas Bus Sales of Des Moines for $82,695. The bus would be a 2014 65-passenger bus with a camera option included in the price.
The next bus bid was from School Bus Sales of Waterloo. The bus would be a 2014 65-passenger bus for $78,115 without the camera option. With the camera option it would be $80,265.
The final bids came from Hoglund Bus Company of Marshalltown. The first bid was for a 2014 65-passenger bus. Without the camera option it would be $80,129 and with it would be $82,029. Their next bid was for a bus from their current fleet. The bid for the s bus without a camera was $78,899 and with a camera, $80,999.
Russell Fox, transportation director for the district, attended the hearing and spoke about the bids the district received.
“Most of them meet the Iowa code as far as what has to be on the school bus to make them safe to haul kids,” Fox said. “The only difference is what options you add.”
Fox recommended the board go with the bid from School Bus Sales because it was the least expensive.
“To me, all of them have their pluses and minuses,” Fox said. “But money is money.”
Fox said that most of the school buses the district has currently are Bluebirds, from School Bus Sales.
George Schultz, bus driver, asked the school board to consider the bus bid from the Hoglund Bus Company. He said the seats were made from better material. He also said he liked having the control panel for the lights in the steering wheel.
Schultz said the Bluebirds have had too many maintenance issues.
“From a driver standpoint and a maintenance standpoint, we’d be better off with a Hoglund than a Bluebird,” Schultz said. “That’s my own personal opinion.”
Dwight Houseal, salesperson for School Bus Sales, was in attendance and spoke at the hearing. Housel said several companies aren’t making their own seats anymore. Housel also said that a lot of other districts wouldn’t buy buses with the control panels for the lights in the steering wheels because of safety issues.
Schultz asked who wrote the specs for the bids on the buses. For a moment the boardroom was quiet.
“Did you write them up, Russ?” Schultz said.
“I looked at them, but no, I did not write them up,” Fox said.
Schultz then said he had some concerns about that because he thought there was a conflict of interest. Roberts said the board wasn’t going to address the conflict of interest.
“I guess that when we ask the transportation director for a recommendation, with that comes an assumption that Russell’s already looked at the cost, looked at the safety, talked to the driver and said this is the recommendation out of all of that bigger picture,” Hanson said. “That should be how things work and that’s why we typically go with the transportation director’s recommendation.”
School board member Mike Golden asked Fox if all of the bids were the same price would he still recommend the same bid from School Bus Sales. Fox said in the end a new bus is better than an old bus. Fox also said his job was to make sure the district had adequate transportation to get the kids to and from school.
“I’ve just given you my honest opinion,” Fox said. “I’m not going to sit and lie about anything. Like I said, I think they all have their faults and pluses. You guys decide what the money is.”
Board member Smith made the motion to go with the bid and purchase from School Bus Sales for the amount of $80,625. The motion passed.
Other items covered at the school board meeting included:
the approval of the Iowa School Cash Anticipation Program (ISCAP) Supplemental Resolution for the 2013-14 school year;
a discussion about the start date/waiver request resolution provided from the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB);
a decision to save the endowment fund from 2012 until next fiscal year and work on what requirements students would need to have to qualify;
a discussion about the 2012-13 budget amendment  and set a public hearing for May 13 at 7 p.m. at the Highland Board Room;
acceptance of the insurance policy for Equipment Breakdown Insurance;
approval of the resignation of Clay Eaton, the physical education teacher for both Ainsworth and Riverside Elementary. Eaton has taken a position with the United Presbyterian Church in Washington as a youth director.
The next school board meeting will be April 22 at 5:30 p.m. in the board room.

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