Enrollment and early retirement discussed

Marshalltown to see increased enrollment; Early retirement program approved by school board

“I’m happy to report that it appears that our certified enrollment count is going to be up this year.”

At Monday evening’s Marshalltown School Board meeting, Marshalltown Schools Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte said it is estimated that the district will gain between 23 and 28 students in the 2017-18 school year.

“There are two primary things that drive our district budget: number of students … and the increases provided by the state, year-to-year,” he said, adding the official enrollment numbers are set for release by the state in November.

With a 0 percent increase in state supplemental aid to school districts predicted for the coming year, Schutte said any increase in student enrollment is a good thing from a district standpoint. Each student in the district brings in over $6,000 in per-pupil funding from the state.

This year’s predicted increase follows an influx of over 100 students in the 2016-17 school year.

Another item discussed concerning the district’s budget was the 2017-18 Voluntary Early Retirement Program. The board approved this year’s program in a 4-2 vote, with board members Mike Miller and Ben Fletcher as the “no” votes; Karina Hernández, Sean Heitmann, board Vice President Janelle Carter and President Bea Niblock voted in favor.

“Our immediate future looks good because we have at least a slight increase in enrollment, we have a very reasonable settlement with out teachers’ union over a two-year period,” Schutte said of the district’s financial situation. “I’m still concerned about what the future holds, both relative to the volatility of our enrollment as well as what doesn’t look like a very promising picture in the next few years from our state increases.”

The program not only allows qualified administrators, teachers and 12-month secretaries to opt for an early retirement package, but it also acts as a cost saving tool for the district, Schutte said.

When a qualified employee opts for the early retirement program, their health insurance costs shift from the district’s general fund to its management fund. It also allows the district to potentially hire a younger, less-experienced teacher and make savings in salaries and benefits.

“Most of your savings [are] because you’re shifting the expenses to a different fund,” said district Director of Finance Brian Bartz. “It just depends on the teacher and the position, but in some situations, you won’t save anything other than the savings in insurance by shifting the insurance to the management fund versus the general fund.”

Miller, who asked for a roll-call vote on the motion, said he took no issue with the program itself, but said he would have liked more information before being asked to vote.

“I’m going to vote no, not because I’m not in favor of the program, it’s because I’m not in favor of the way that the board was trying to be convinced to vote for it,” he said.

Fletcher also said he would like to see more information on potential cost savings from the early retirement program. Schutte said those numbers will be provided and more discussion on the issue will take place going forward.

Also approved was the purchase of three cell phones for use by preschool bus monitors. The phones will include an app that links monitors with a translator for better communication with some preschool parents when a child is being dropped off at home.

In other business

District Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson presented on several topics for the board. She relayed information on the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) proposal and went over the K-12 core and non-core curriculum for the 2017-18 school year.

District Director of Special Services Matt Cretsinger also presented on special services curricula.

A presentation was also held on Hoglan Elementary School, and fourth grade students talked about their experiences with the building’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program.

The state champion Marshalltown High School golf team was commended at Monday’s meeting as well.

The next Marshalltown School Board meeting is set for 5 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Central Administration Office, 1002 S. 3rd Ave.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com