Board OKs Central Office restructuring; savings to Mehlville will total $89,500

Board members to discuss proposed 31-cent transfer ballot issue on May 15

By MIKE ANTHONY

A restructuring of the duties of Central Office administrators approved last week by the Mehlville Board of Education will save the school district more than $89,500.

The Board of Education voted unanimously April 22 to approve the restructuring plan recommended by Superintendent Terry Noble, who thanked Deputy Superintendent Eric Knost for his work on the proposal.

“I want to thank Dr. Knost, in particular, because he really is the one who analyzed the positions that are involved, their duties and responsibilities, and really facilitated the coordination of this,” Noble said. “And also the cooperation that we received from our Central Office staff and how they stepped to the plate and agreed to accept some different responsibilities in different areas … We have three vacancies, in particular. We have our CFO (chief financial officer) position. We have our professional development position and then we have the director of facilities position. And one of your charges was for us to fill the CFO position at no cost to the district — no additional cost …”

The restructuring plan approved by the board includes the following changes:

• Director of Facilities Rick Platz, who is retiring, will not be replaced. Keith Henry will become executive director of support services and will take over many of Platz’s duties.

• Steve Habeck will become director of facilities and also take over many of Platz’s duties. He will receive a $10,000 salary increase.

• John Tucker will become assistant to the director of facilities and receive a $4,160.20 pay increase.

• Mike Gegg will become mechanical supervisor and receive a roughly $2,080 salary increase.

• A CFO will not be hired and Brent Bell will become director of finance, reporting directly to Knost. Knost will oversee the business office and deliver presentations to the Board of Education and staff. Other ancillary duties will be shifted away from Knost.

• Lisa Furey will remain director of accounting.

• Steven Lee will remain director of information technology services and also serve as sound engineer at all district-level events. He will receive a $5,000 pay hike.

• A director of professional development will not be hired and Vicki VanLaere, assistant superintendent of instruction, will take over professional development and assessment.

• Brian Lane, assistant superintendent of student services, will supervise middle schools and south-area elementary schools. He will become assistant superintendent of supervision of schools. A director of special services will be hired to cover many of the components of Lane’s current post.

• Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Lisa Counts will take on the responsibility for the districtwide insurance program.

• Diane Wedel officially will become director of transportation with no salary increase.

• Sharon Smallenberger officially will become assistant director of transportation with a $3,120 salary increase.

As a result of not hiring a director of facilities and a CFO, Noble calculates that the savings in salaries, benefits and other deductions will total $89,570.73.

During an April 22 closed session, board members voted unanimously to re-employ Bell, Furey, Gegg, Habeck, Henry, Lee, Smallenberger, Tucker and Wedel for the 2008-2009 school year.

Also re-employed for the 2008-2009 school year with the same vote were: Mary Galvin, lead nurse/early childhood nurse; Jordan Krugman, director of school food and nutrition; and Steven Meyer, assistant director of information technology services.

In a separate matter during the April 22 meeting, Noble briefly discussed a recent leadership summit in which he discussed the district’s financial situation.

“… One of the things that came out of that was one of the strategies to help with our budget issue is the possibility of transferring funds from our debt service to operations, and this is something that I would like you to start thinking about. I can communicate more with you on that, but I just want to say if there’s any possibility this is something we’d want to do at the August election …” board members would have to make a decision before the May 27 deadline, Noble said.

Noting the board’s next meeting is May 15, he said, “And what I can do is have something prepared for you and it may not even be something you’ll consider, but just since we don’t have any time to meet between now and then, I would at least have a possible ballot issue for you to consider …”

As first reported by the Call, financial projections indicate the school district’s operating-fund balance will dip below the state-required 3-percent minimum by the end of the 2009-2010 school year. Noble previously told the Call that he was taken aback by the new projection for the 2009-2010 school year as it differed significantly from a previous projection that the district would have an operating-fund balance of 5.75 percent on June 30, 2010.

During the April 19 leadership summit, Noble told the roughly 40 people present that the financial situation is not an immediate crisis. He said funds are available to correct the projected shortfall if voters would agree to transfer 31 cents from the debt-service fund into the operating fund.

The transfer would generate roughly $5.7 million annually for the district. Mehlville’s overall tax rate would not increase, but the transfer would extend the district’s bonded indebtedness by 15 years.

Noble told the Call that he would present potential ballot language to the board at the May 15 meeting.

“… I wanted them to start processing that information and start thinking about it because we don’t have a chance to meet again until May 15,” he said. “So what I will do is say: Here’s the ballot language. If you are interested in doing this at the Aug. 5 election, then you need to tell me tonight or we can come back with a special meeting before (May 27), which they may decide to do. Or they may say: It’s too soon. We’ve got time. And we do have time …”

The Facilitating Team of the district’s public-engagement program COMPASS is considering recommending the Board of Education place the 31-cent transfer on the November ballot. The team also is considering recommending a separate 37-cent operating-fund tax-rate increase to fund the first of four phases of a new master plan.

“The board has got to, in my mind, address our budget issue separate of COMPASS. That’s something we have to deal with today or in the near future no matter what happens with any other proposal,” Noble said.