Published On: Wed, Mar 15th, 2017

Area residents share their views at School Board meeting

RANDOLPH — Randolph area residents got a chance recently to express their views to the Randolph Public School board.

The Board met March 7 with an estimated audience of at least 50 to discuss a possible school daycare.

The meeting was conducted in the east school lunch area due to the large number of people. No decision was reached. The topic will be on the March agenda for the school board meeting, however, one of the board members plans to be absent. Hoesing said the daycare decision may be tabled until all the board members are present to decide on the project.

The net project expense is estimated as $125,000 or about 1.7 cents on the levy at current valuation. This means a possible $17 per $100,000 of taxable valuation. The September 2016 total valuation of $767,513,842 would mean one cent on the levy would generate an estimated $76,751. This year Randolph has a combined levy of .4544 cents. This means for every $100,000 of taxable valuation, a patron pays $454.40 in property tax.

The October 2016 adjusted valuation reflects the following percentage as a portion of total valuation: personal property, 4.25 percent; residential, eight percent; agricultural buildings farmsite, 2.5 percent; centrally assessed, 4.75 percent; commercial/industrial real, 3.75 percent; and agricultural land, 76.75 percent. Agricultural buildings and land account for 79.2 percent of total valuation.

Revenue sources taken from the recent audit (2015-2016 school year) show a total revenue of $4,002,264 from the following sources: County, 23 percent; State, 12.73 percent; Federal, 1.9 percent; Non-revenue sources, 1.4 percent; Local sources other than property tax, five percent and local property tax 79 percent and 62.4 percent of total revenue is ag-related property tax (79 percent of 79 percent).

“It is okay to disagree about details that we discuss tonight, however, keep in mind that the decision will come down to the school board’s opinion,’’ said Sandy Owens, Board Member. “Materials from the meeting will be available online, on the school Website.’’

School website material also includes levy information, according to Superintendent Jeff Hoesing, who commended Principal Mary Miller for her insight on the project and said he feels neutral about the project. He also commended the board for their deliberate approach to the project. The school website has a document: 16-17 Levy and Valuation Stats. This document shows general, bond, building and QCPUF levies for every public school in the state.

“This is the way the school board can create an opportunity for Randolph,’’ said Board Member Jim Scott. “There is definitely a need. I think we are on the right track. We haven’t advertised it yet. We might get a new family to move to the area. This might be the opportunity that they need.’’

“Whether we wait, check and see if someone wants to run the daycare program without the school rules and finding the right person for the program matters. If we don’t get this accomplished, we will have to take care of it as a school board,’’ school board member Paul Schmit said.

“I don’t think we are throwing our money away with the renovations. I think we will utilize the renovated structure. I am optimistic and hopeful about the project,’’ Owens said.

“We want to make sure not to overlook someone if they would want to come in and run this daycare as a business,’’ Hoesing said.

‘”I think we meet in the middle. I am not really on board, however I would be on board with fixing up the facility,’’ said Lisa Linville, Board Member.

Cody Backer, Board Member, said he also would like to see the renovations happen.

Another board member, Loren Haselhorst, echoed Scott’s view with hope that an advertisement in the Omaha area might attract families or even an individual interested in the private business opportunity.

Haselhorst and administrators said it will most likely sustain itself. It can be looked at as adding another program. Other individuals voiced that the young age of children involved are the most important and should be given the right structure as an investment in the future.

“Private business for the daycare is the best solution,’’ said audience member Mike Korth. “You can save the dollars and the business could be profitable. Don’t move too fast on the project and eliminate the possibility that someone would want to have this as a business. The level of rent a business would have to pay might make a difference.’’

Discussion opened as to whether a month would be enough time for someone to research the project and decide to move ahead with a business. Renovation time should also be considered, according to audience members.

“The Catholic Church offered a building and start up cost for this project,’’ said audience member Marvin Nordhues. “It is evident that the private business is not going to happen because it has been put out to the public as an option already.’’

“I look at it as very black and white. The program involves a limited number of children. A significant cost will be involved for a minimal return. I think everyone would do a great job with the program, however, we will be paying for the program forever,’’ said Maggie Korth, a local mother of four and a farmer. “I don’t want to pay for it, but I want it to happen. Is this the very best option? Have we minimized the overhead expenses? I love the idea. It is an investment in the future of our children. I just think with the agricultural economy the way it is right now that this is a lot to ask.”

Staffing costs for the daycare program would have to probably include two certified teachers and two paras for around $225,000. Certified staff would fall under the negotiated agreement with regard to base pay and days outside the 172-day contract. This would be enough staff for eight babies and 12 toddlers (18 months to 3 years). Children can have a max group size of 20. If the school attracts more babies or toddlers then more teachers will need to be hired. Some of the cost would be offset by parent fees.

This project would make the school a larger employer and determine that the school must offer insurance to office staff and hot lunch staff.

“Fifty or more employers make the school a large employer, according to the present Affordable Care Act. The Act mandates that we offer insurance with a penalty of $3,000 fine per person if we don’t offer the insurance stipend. We can either give the funds to the staff or to the IRS,’’ Hoesing said. “Not all our employees are likely to take advantage of the insurance stipend.’’

“We don’t want to create a daycare for the affluent,’’ Hoesing said. “A sliding scale will be developed to allow costs to be adjusted to some parents ability to pay. An estimated $10,000 per student is the cost of developing the program. A certified teacher needs to be at the day care all the time.’’

The original rooms intended for the Learning Center have been changed to accommodate the existing plumbing layout with a new design.

Estimated renovation costs for the project are $20,000 for room renovations, $30,000 for HVAC, $5,000 for equipment and $5,000 for plumbing. New windows are not included in that figure. Egress windows will have to accommodate a fire department rescuer in full gear, according to the fire marshall. A per-child-figure of 35 square ft. per child is estimated.

Hoesing said the board examined whether costs would narrow with more children.

“The costs go up with more students,’’ Hoesing said. “We do not want to undercut prices for a daycare in business.’’

Miller said the center will have two entrances. Elementary students have been routed past the office in the morning.

“Our gym door is locked to allow all who enter the school to go past the front office otherwise anyone could walk right into where our students are,’’ Miller said.

If the school decides to move ahead with the project, a handbook will be developed, rates will be established, a policy on who enrolls and the use of volunteers will be among the crucial details to be established.

“An advisory council exists for the four-year-old program,’’ Miller said. “This project will have details determined by Rule 11, a private business could probably not afford to run the program at that level and would probably be governed by Health and Human Services which would have more of a people-operating the business view of concern. The school could enlist the qualifications for Rule 11 and HHS but this would also involve more paperwork. We have been working with the Rule 11, which seems to be child and environmentally centered. Individuals can learn more about the important needs of early-age children at http://firstfivenebraska.org.”

“Five communities have a levy equal to or lower than Randolph’s,’’ Hoesing said. “One hundred and fourteen Nebraska schools have a levy calculated at more than two times higher than Randolph. An estimated 97 percent of districts within the State of Nebraska had a higher levy than Randolph. Parents of children may opt in or out of the school system at Randolph. Fourteen students have opted out of the district. Randolph is a negative option school. Nebraska is a public choice state which means parents can decide whether to send students to this district.’’

School boards must adopt by resolution specific standards for approval and denial of applications to option into their districts. Standards may include the capacity of a program, class, grade level, or school building, based upon available staff, facilities, projected enrollment of resident students, projected number of students the option district will contract based on existing contractual arrangements, and availability of appropriate special education programs. The school board of the option school district may by resolution declare a program, a class, or a school unavailable to option students if the district is at capacity.

Option enrollment school information can be found in the Nebraska Department of Education Rule 19, “Regulations Regarding School Enrollment,” which can be downloaded from the Nebraska Department of Education’s website at: https://www.education.ne.gov.

Audience member Crystal Junck asked if government programs like USDA could provide financing for the daycare project.

Audience member Dan Tunink suggested the possibility of the project being routed through a 501(c)(3) organization.

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set up within the IRS section 501(c)(3). None of its earnings may benefit any private shareholder or individual. It may not be an action organization and attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are referred to as charitable organizations. Organizations described in section 501(c)(3), other than testing for public safety organizations, are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.

“The 501(c)(3) option would allow individuals to donate directly and is something that legal counsel would need to set up,’’ Tunink said.

“Once the board has said they will do the renovations, they have basically committed to care for the students and the existing physical building will provide an opportunity to recruit people just as an economic development opportunity is greater with an existing structure,’’ Tunink said. “Funds could come in from donors and grandparents for a project like this. Our most prized possession is our children. The initial cost to open the doors could come from private donors for their grandchildren. What concerns me is the turnover for childcare workers when individuals find a job with better pay. Maybe we need to elevate the pay so we don’t have people leave for a better opportunity.”

A number of comments from audience members included a spectrum of opinions for and against the daycare center. Several individuals said the cost of the program made them less inclined to support it, even though they see the need and would use the program, they indicated they would want the funds used for the education of the entire school. One individual said they drive to Yankton, S.D., and work there because of the daycare availability.

Audience member Mark Korth asked if the program would require additional administrative staff. Miller said no the teachers hired for the program would count as administrative staff except for the administrative work she would do with the program.

“If the project moves ahead, can we count on individuals from the community for a work day at school?’’ Miller asked.

Budget figures for the center are estimated that for every certified teacher a range of $65,000-$95,000 in salary, benefits and payroll expenses will be needed. Each paraprofessional will require $27,000-$36,000. Staff expenses could range from $184,000-$225,000 per year.

Each child enrolled full-time could bring a $5,000 estimated annual return. Four adults caring for eight infants and 12 toddlers would mean $100,000 in parent fees.

The net expense is estimated as $125,000 or about 1.7 cents on the levy at current valuation. This means a possible $17 per $100,000 of taxable valuation.

The overall levy has gone from 1.01 in (2004-2005) to .4544 in (2016-2017), a drop of 55.5 cents (-.55 percent) in 12

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