Marshalltown school levy stays steady

Projected budget, possible telephone system upgrade discussed at school board meeting

Next year’s estimated Marshalltown Schools budget was discussed at Monday’s school board meeting, and the overall tax rate is set to see a slight increase over last year.

“It is that time of year again for the certified enrollment to be approved,” said district Director of Business Operations Brian Bartz. “The actual budget needs to be filed by the county auditor by April 17.”

During an overview of the estimated budget, Bartz said the overall levy rate for 2018-19 looks to be $17.95209 per $1,000 taxable valuation, compared to the current rate of $17.94955.

He also said the budget assumes a 1 percent increase in state supplemental aid to school districts, and added the estimated cost per pupil for the coming fiscal year is $6,772.

“We’re looking at April 2 as the public hearing for the certified budget,” Bartz said.

Board member Ben Fletcher said he was happy to see little change in the overall tax rate, as he and other board members had expected a possible increase of up to 20 cents. That expectation came after the 2018-19 at-risk budget was approved in December of 2017; no such increase was seen in Monday’s budget projection.

Additionally, district Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte said a new district director of business operations may soon be finalized. He said Paulette Newbold, the business manager at Boone Community School District, is set to replace the outgoing Bartz at the position; Bartz will leave Marshalltown Schools at the end of March.

Also discussed Monday was a possible phone system upgrade at the district.

“Our current phone system is 13 years old here,” said district Director of Technology Josh Wesley. “We’re oftentimes using refurbished handsets and phones.”

He got the board’s approval Monday to send out a request for proposal (RFP) for a new telephone system, and estimated the cost of such replacement and upgrade at $275,000.

Wesley said a new system could have many useful features, including audio conferencing, voicemails, integrated instant-messaging functionality and more.

Additionally, he said safety features could be added.

“Another area that I really think could be really beneficial is some student safety aspects that can get integrated with the phone system,” Wesley said. “Some of the newer ones have capabilities of advanced E-911, which is the ability to track a 911 call to the exact physical location of where that 911 call has been placed.”

Additionally, Wesley said a previously-approved RFP for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, also called E-Rate, had received bids. However, due to timing issues, he said more bids may come in and that he could not reveal the bid tallies as of Monday night.

“That would violate the open, competitive process required by USAC (Universal Service Administration Company),” Wesley said, adding the bids that have come in so far have been lower than he expected.

According to Marshalltown School Board Policy 705.1, the superintendent can approve E-Rate purchases on the board’s behalf, and Wesley referenced that policy at Monday’s meeting.

“When you’re dealing with E-Rate, oftentimes you’re dealing with very short timetables; I believe that’s why this stipulation was in the purchasing policy to begin with,” Wesley said, adding the board can opt out of a decision made by administration to award a bid.

Board Vice President Janelle Carter said the information could be offered at the March 19 board meeting.

“It might just be appropriate to share it at the next meeting as a summary,” she said.

In other business

The Marshalltown High School (MHS) graduation date for the 2018-19 school year was set at Sunday, June 2, 2019 at Monday’s meeting.

MHS Dean of Students Dan Terrones and four Marshalltown Area Healthcare Careers Club students presented a proposed field trip to Kansas City from April 5-6. The board approved the trip, which will allow the 25 qualified students to visit the Truman Medical Center in the city.

The board went into closed session to perform a quarterly evaluation of Schutte after a unanimous roll call vote. The five members present were Sean Heitmann, Karina Hernández, board President Bea Niblock, Carter and Fletcher; the board does such a superintendent evaluation every quarter of the school year.

The next Marshalltown School Board meeting is set for 5 p.m. Monday, March 19 at the Central Administration Office, 1002 S. 3rd Ave.

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