Ground broken for new middle school

by nathan oster

Ground was broken, ceremonially at least, on the new Greybull Middle School Wednesday night. But when it will happen for real, with heavy equipment operators rather than board members moving the dirt, remains anyone’s guess due to a procedural delay in the governor’s office.

Big Horn County School District No. 3 did what it had to do in June to keep the building on track to open in the fall of 2015. The board approved a contract for the construction, choosing Sletten Construction with its base bid of $4.965 million, and then lobbied for and was granted another $472,000 in unanticipated funding from the School Facilities Commission to move ahead with the project.

Since June 25, however, the project has been on hold, awaiting the governor’s signature.

That is, until late Tuesday afternoon, when Bryant reported that the governor had, in fact, assigned the transfer of funds and that both the notice to proceed and contract had been signed as well.

“Expect movement immediately by the contractor to start the project, likely within the next two weeks,” said Bryant, adding that the contractor is still on the hook to complete the new construction by July 1 and the remodel by Aug. 15, 2015.


Budget approved

In addition to breaking ground on their new middle school, board members also approved the 2014-15 budgets for the school district, the Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) and Greybull Recreation District.

The effects of the valuation drop in Big Horn County will be felt by the recreation district, which anticipates $111,351 in tax revenue during the 2014-15 fiscal year. That’s down slightly more than $11,000 from the $122,595 received during the 2013-14 fiscal year. The district is projecting total income of $149,851, down from $163,095 in FY 2014.

On the expenses side the total comes to $216,833, which represents a slight increase from the $215,673 figure for FY 2014. The biggest changes include a boost of more than $4,000 in capital outlay, a decrease from $35,000 to $28,000 for hall improvements, a $1,000 increase for summer and part-time help and $4,000 for youth league support.

The BOCES remains a relatively new thing for the district. In its first year, the district spent only a portion of the approximately $65,000 generated by the one-half mill property tax levy. So the BOCES heads into its second year with a healthy carry-over of around $55,000, to go along with the additional $55,000 it expects to receive in new tax revenues.

The new BOCES budget sets aside money for salaries and benefits, office supplies, advertising, dual and concurrent enrollment courses, the driver’s education contract and equipment, community education courses and community arts. The BOCES is planning to use some of its funding to purchase a better vehicle for driver’s education courses.

The school district’s budget shows an increase in the foundation guarantee from $4.46 million to $5.28 million to go along with a decrease in county taxes from $3.65 million to $3.48 million.

The cash carryover line item, which began 2013-14 at $1.09 million, stands at $958,000 for the new budget year.

The school district is proposing total expenditures of $9.142 million. When salaries and benefits that are funded outside the model are factored in, that total drops to $8.942 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

For the 2013-14 year, the district budgeted $8.510 million.

Supt. Barry Bryant explained the two line items that changed the most.

The Curriculum and Grants line item grew from $1,534 to $69,287, mainly to cover the cost of implementing new curriculum.

The other big change came in the Technology Rotation line item, as the board boosted funding from $67,530 to $135,000 in anticipation of opening the new middle school the fall of 2015. Bryant said six new computer labs are needed and that the district must make other infrastructure tweaks as part of a shift toward computer-based testing.

• Board members discussed scheduling a town hall-styled meeting sometime this fall to explain the Common Core concept to the community. They agreed that the general public lacks understanding about what it is and why it is important.

• Bryant informed the board that a contract employee, the school district’s psychologist, had given notice of her intent to end the contract. She is relocating to Gillette. The board is searching for a replacement.

• Francie Weekes is returning to her position as a speech pathologist, agreeing to do so on a part-time basis while the school district searches for someone to fill the position full time. Weekes retired last spring but indicated that she’d be willing to come back and work two days a week. She will draw a salary and the district will pay her retirement benefits, but she will not qualify for health insurance benefits, according to Bryant. She will again be headquartered at the elementary school, where most of the students in need of speech pathology are located.

• The board approved requests from three out-of-district families wanting to enroll their children in Greybull schools. The eight children covered in the approval range from second grade through the 10th grade and none of them require special services.

• The board approved membership dues in the amount of $3,353 to the Wyoming High School Activities Association and to appoint Nolan Tracy, the district’s activities director, as its official WHSAA representative.

GHS participates in 14 different WHSAA-approved activities.

• Janelle Craft was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Greybull Recreation District’s board of directors. Craft replaces Mike Carlson, who resigned. Craft’s term will expire in December. She was the board’s choice from a pool of candidates that also included Heidi Capser and Emily Anderson.

In her presentation to the board, Craft cited her Greybull roots — she grew up and has spent most of her life in the community — as well as her administrative background and experience playing, organizing and coaching sports. This past spring, she was instrumental in the launch of the South Big Horn Little League, which had more than 100 participants.

“My first recollection of playing organized sports started in the Greybull Recreation District,” Craft said in a letter to the school board. “I understand the importance of the recreation district for the children in our community and feel that it is the foundation for most when it comes to organized sports and activities. Whether it be learning the fundamentals and basic rules for different sports or taking an art class, the activities offered by the recreation district are essential to this community.”

• The board approved the transfer of the school district’s recycling trailer to the Town of Greybull. There will continue to be an emphasis on recycling within the district, but the town, and not the school, will be responsible for caring for and emptying the trailer.

• The school board authorized the superintendent to proceed with an excess property sale to rid the district of several items, including old camera equipment, furniture and TVs, as well as an old tractor and a 1992 Dodge truck, both of which will be sold in a silent auction with a minimum bid of $1,000.

• In his monthly report, Bryant indicated that the district has two unfilled positions, as it’s still looking for a middle school language arts teacher as well as an assistant boys basketball coach at the middle school level.

Board members raised the issue of the activities budget, which has been the source of some controversy since Bryant began taking steps to bring it more in line with what it receives for activities from the state.

Last year (2012-13) the district overspent on activities to the tune of around $50,000.

The deficit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014 is expected to come in around $28,000.

“Still better than last year,” said Bryant, who made a number of funding tweaks, including eliminating a weightlifting coach and reducing the national travel budget.

He pledged to trim it even more in the months ahead.

“We will balance next year,” he told the board.

For the 2013-14 school year, the district received $299,619 from the state for activities.

Bryant acknowledged that it’s a “touchy subject” with coaches and sponsors. They are paid in the form of a stipend for doing the job — not for the time spent doing it.   When all the time spent during the season and in the offseason is factored in, it ends up being a bargain for the district, as many coaches and advisors probably don’t make much more than $2 to $3 per hour on their extracurricular assignments.

• Shopko was recognized by the board for making a $2,000 donation to the district’s backpack program.

• It was announced that homecoming at GHS is going to be the week of Sept. 15-20.