Paperless meetings discussed by Mehlville Board of Education

District’s 2012-2013 budget unanimously OK’d by board

By Kari Williams

BoardDocs, an online program used for board meetings, is one option the Mehlville School District could consider if it switches to paperless Board of Education meetings.

Mike Fitzgerald, a BoardDocs representative, presented the online tool at last week’s board meeting. BoardDocs allows its users to: include video and audio directly in meetings, look at other BoardDocs subscribers’ information for best practices; and allows for electronic voting, among other intricacies.

“What we do at BoardDocs is we make it easy for you to access your material, to search through your archives,” Fitzgerald told the board June 21, “but importantly, make sure that you have that location 24/7 from anywhere, and (it’s) a great tool for transparency with the public as well.”

Board member Rich Franz said though he is never in favor of spending more money, what stood out in the BoardDocs presentation was the accessibility it provides to the community.

“If we are going to make a decision on that, I think (community outreach) has to be a big part of our decision,” Franz said. “It’s worth spending the money if we feel as a board that it gives the community more accessibility to us.”

Transparency, quality of information and timeliness “trumps” cost, according to board Secretary Larry Felton.

“In case of a tie, I think functionality wins out over cost,” Felton said.

Having immediate access to what other school districts are doing appealed to board member Ron Fedorchak.

“… Being able to pull up years of meetings would have been really nice (as a new board member) and would still be nice …,” he said.

But board member Mark Stoner asked how transitioning to BoardDocs could be justified to taxpayers.

Fitzgerald said printing and delivery costs would be reduced by switching to paperless board meetings, though he did not provide specific amounts.

“When you figure all the time that goes into building these materials and making it available to the board, to making the revisions, you will see significant time savings beyond the printing and delivery expenses,” Fitzgerald said.

Information from the BoardDocs website states that BoardDocs LT costs $2,700 per year, though prices vary from state to state.

Superintendent Eric Knost said printing the district’s board books through the print shop in the Witzel Alt Center stays within the 43-million copy allotment the district is given.

Printing the board books costs about $500, and uses less than 100,000 copies per year, according to Chief Financial Officer Noel Knobloch.

“In essence, it doesn’t cost us anything to print because it’s covered within what we are allotted,” Knost said. “So the only savings we really ever considered was the gas to drive these things out to you all once, sometimes twice a month … but if there is an interest in going to this format, I would recommend that you charge me with bringing maybe a competitor or two to show you what they have to offer.”

The superintendent also said most school districts that switch to paperless meetings purchase laptops for their board members.

The board agreed to hear presentations from other companies that offer solutions for paperless board meetings.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to approve the 2012-2013 school year budget.

The approved budget projects total expenditures of $101,362,000 with anticipated revenue of $101,851,000 — a surplus of $489,000.

For 2011-2012, which ends June 30, the district projects total expenditures of $100,592,000 with expected revenue of $102,755,000 — a surplus of $2,163,000.

Based on an overall projected cash balance of $28,034,732 on June 30, the 2012-2013 budget anticipates a balance of $28,523,732 on June 30, 2013.