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Bartlett school board revises budget, signs deeds

Crest for Bartlett City SchoolsBartlett’s school board approved a revised budget and a health insurance package, and members heard updates on the freshman academy, the honors program and contracts at the May 22 meeting.

The Bartlett City Schools Board of Education also signed deeds immediately after the meeting, and the district will take possession of facilities on June 2.

Budget approval

The board unanimously approved the following changes to the school district’s balanced budget of $71,397,213.

Bartlett superintendent David Stephens said the updated budget spells out the city’s contributions in greater detail, including both its required $1.6 million in sales tax (15 cents per $100 of taxable property for this year) and a supplemental amount of $608,198 due Nov. 1 to Shelby County Schools.

“We wanted to line that out because we really are excited about our city helping us, especially with that other $600,000 that we have to pay,” Stephens said. “I’m not sure that all municipalities are in the same boat, so we really appreciate the mayor and the aldermen for working with us on that.”

He added, “We feel like we have a good budget.”

The budget now includes staffing formulas/ratios and the school calendar, and funds were shifted around to include teachers’ laptops and devices for the freshman academy, seven educational assistants, four guidance counselors, three assistant principals, four special education clerical positions, seven teaching positions (some at the freshman academy), money for the STEM program, cafeteria managers, plant managers and more.

“These are just some of the investments of $2.5 million that we were able to make and still bring in a balanced budget that we feel is a very efficient and effective use of our taxpayer dollars, and to be able to offer an exceptional educational experience for all of the folks in our community,” Stephens said.

The next step is presenting the budget to the city board at its May 27 meeting (pending at the time of this story).

Q4 adjustments

The board members approved adding $123,000 to their current fourth-quarter budget (April-June) to cover unanticipated costs of taking possession of the properties on June 2 instead of July 1.

The original quarterly budget was very lean, Stephens said, and this change raises it from $770,236 to $893,236.

He explained that he hopes the expenses can be covered by reviewing the budget for “lapsed dollars” that can be worked with (such as having budgeted for a hire in March but not making the hire until April).

If that doesn’t cover the additional necessary costs, Stephens wanted an approved amended budget ready to take to the city board for immediate approval.

Potential costs could include maintenance and repairs, custodial staff, annual testing of smoke detectors and fire alarms, and possibly some administrative staff.

Contract updates

The district will piggyback on existing contracts for some critical services the district needs soon, including:

  • Security monitoring through Johnson Controls Inc., approximately $15,000. Needed immediately because the buildings become the school district’s property in June.
  • Copier paper and colored paper purchases, through American Paper & Twine Co., $65,000. n Cafeteria dishwashing detergents through Auto-Chlor, $10,500.
  • Waste removal through Allied Waste, $65,000.

Stephens explained that these critical services and supply orders must begin in the next two to three weeks.

Health benefits

The board unanimously authorized the superintendent to contract with providers for employee health benefits.

The key goal of work on the district’s health insurance benefits package was to ensure it replicated the teachers’ current benefits as closely as possible, and the district will be able to do that at a lower cost, Stephens said.

The most competitive offer was from Meritain Health, an independent subsidiary of Aetna and one of the nation’s largest administrators of health benefits.

The offer includes three different plan options, and it uses Baptist, LeBonheur and Saint Francis hospital systems but does not include the Methodist hospitals.

Stephens said the offer compared favorably with the state plan. The overall maximum liability was slightly lower than the current vendor’s, and Meritain offered these credits:

  • $400,000 for administrative charges (no admin costs for approximately six months)
  • $100,000 for communication materials for the first year of the contract
  • $542,000 estimated for full on-site health screenings of all employees
  • $75,000 wellness fund for each year of the contract
  • $100,000 additional credit for year 2

Voluntary coverage will also be available for dental, basic life, supplemental life, vision care, long-term and short-term disability, flexible spending, dependent childcare reimbursement, and an employee assistance program (EAP).

New 9th-grade academy and honors program

Dr. Lee-Ann Kight, the district’s director of teaching and learning, gave an update on the freshman academy planned to operate at what is now Shadowlawn Middle School. The freshman academy is being created to relieve enrollment pressure at Bartlett High.

She said the district has been chipping away at critical staffing needs and has secured some “rock star irreplaceable teachers” to come in. Work continues on nailing down the master schedule.

The Honors Academy brochures and applications went out to middle-schoolers before the final day of school, Kight said. Because this year’s timeline is compressed because of the district’s start-up, Bartlett will accept electronic versions of the necessary teacher recommendations this year, she said, even though the application asks for a paper version in a sealed envelope.

Some students have already submitted their Honors Academy applications.

Other business

The board also:

  • Noted that all offer letters have gone out for the schools’ classified and certified staff.
  • Approved special course applications for ACT English preparation, ACT math preparation, classical mythology and etymology.
  • Approved the Education Solutions Development Inc. (ESD) contract for the district’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for human resources, payroll, finance, and purchasing. The contract uses the vendor that the legacy Shelby County Schools system has worked with for many years. Stephens said Bartlett’s district is far enough ahead that it plans to begin running trial payrolls this week. The contract includes software and licensing fees of $225,000, maintenance and support of $40,000, and professional services of $337,000 (a one-year cost of data conversion). Costs are being shared by all six new municipal school districts, with Bartlett entering into the vendor contract and billing the other districts who have interlocal agreements.
  • Approved the GCA Services contract for custodial services at all 11 district facilities, including the central office at Bartlett High School. It is for $1,253,994, based on the current Shelby County contract that has already been bid out.
  • Authorized board chairman Jeff Norris to enter into negotiations with Bartlett attorney Kari Shoopman to serve as the board’s general counsel.
  • Approved routine policies on graduation requirements, honors and advanced placement (AP) course selection procedures, instructional materials, online courses, students with limited proficiency in English, and vacations and holidays.

Written by Carolyn Bahm, editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to carolyn.bahm@journalinc.com.

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