By Beth Bily
At its meeting Monday, the ISD 318 school board opted to voluntarily decline additional levy authority that came courtesy of the 2014 legislative session.
In 2013, state lawmakers approved legislation that allowed local school districts the ability to enact additional local levies without voter approval. The Grand Rapids School District opted to exercise that newfound ability last year – implementing a $300 per pupil levy and a $212 (then known as location equity revenue) per pupil levy that was then only available to larger districts.
This year, lawmakers extended the authority of the latter levy, now known as local optional revenue, to all school districts. The legislative action also moved the limit upward to from $212 to $424 per pupil unit for districts with greater than 2,000 students and from $0 to $424 for all other school districts.
Last year, the location equity revenue required local boards to opt out by Sept. 1. This year, language changes allow districts to not participate at all or to “under levy,” receiving less than the $424 maximum.
Grand Rapids school board members voted Monday to “under levy” by $212 per pupil unit – keeping in place the levy approved last year but opting out of the $212 per pupil additional funding available.
Superintendent Bruce Thomas told those at the meeting that the decision stemmed from discussion at a workshop last week, when board members and administration concluded that the district was “fiscally sound” without the additional funding. The option to under levy applies to the 2015-2016 school year and the district would still have the option to revisit the additional levy authority in future years – should it be deemed necessary.
“We will have to review this and make sure we’re in sound fiscal shape,” said Board Clerk Ben Hawkins.
In other business, the board:
• Approved a salary change for a top administrator. Rochelle Van Den Heuvel’s job title was recently changed from curriculum director to assistant superintendent of teaching and learning. The board approved a new annual salary of $123,374, effective July 1, 2014.
• Listened to a report on the Native American Indian Services programming from Kay Kirt and Patty Erven.
• Approved a number of resignations and replacement hires for the 2014-2015 school year.
• Listened to a report from Greg Spahn, who discussed the incorporation of Google Explorer and Google Glass into classroom instruction.
• Listened to a report from Van Den Heuvel on the use of iPads among ninth grade students.
• Approved the minutes of the July 21 regular board meeting.
• Approved the school liaison officer agreement with the city of Grand Rapids for the 2014-15 school year. The total cost of this year’s contract is $115,706.31, a $6,449.25 increase over last year.
• Approved posting a half-time reading/math interventionist/teacher position at Bigfork School for the 2014-15 school year. The total cost of the position is estimated at $46,000.
• Approved additional 1.5 hours each day for 13 kindergarten classroom support personnel. The total cost is estimated at $116,900.
• Approved handbooks for the 2014-15 school year for Grand Rapids High School, Bigfork High School, the Robert J. Elkington Middle School, elementary schools, Early Childhood/Invest Early, Success, Early Success, ISD 318 Employee Handbook, ISD 318 Coach and Advisor Handbook and the 1:1 Digital Student Learning Initiative – Family Handbook.
• Approved resolutions related to upcoming school board elections.
• Approved an equipment lease/purchase agreement for equipment to support student device continued coverage. The equipment lease/purchase agreement totals $331,072.04, which will increase the budget by $10,536.02 for the next two school years.
• Approved a resolution designating September as Hunger Action Month.