This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

School Board kills wellness center proposal

Here is the short version: After hearing the presentation for the proposed wellness center and comments from about 30 citizens, the Rensselaer Central School Board voted against approving a preliminary project determination resolution. The result is that the proposed wellness center is dead. It can be revived, but the process must restart, meaning that another public hearing would be required.

And now for a longer version if you are interested.

The Rensselaer Central School Board met for its monthly meeting on February 16 with an audience of approximately 80 citizens, almost all there for the public meeting about a proposed wellness center. After the normal start-of-meeting preliminaries, Superintendent Ned Speicher gave a financial report. He announced that the 2016 school budget had been approved by the state. He had a slide showing that assessed valuation in the school district had increased from about $600 million in 2009 to about $750 million in 2015. The property tax rate had remained under the level of 2009, which was .66, bouncing around between .57 and .61. He noted that the general fund, which is the money paying for the routine activities of the school, is completely funded by state taxes and that the state had cut those monies in 2008-2009 from about $12 million to about $10.5 million and that though that amount has gradually increased since, it remains below $12 million.

The Board approved incentive performance for teachers and administrators. This approval had been delayed because of the delay in the state's release of ISTEP results. The primary and elementary schools had scored an "A" and the middle and high schools a "B".

Next was a presentation of the proposed wellness center, which was largely the same as the presentation given at the City Council Meeting, reported here. However, both an architect and a financial advisor were present to add some details. The architect noted that the building would be pre-engineered, essentially a kit that is assembled on site. Apparently there are enough of this type of building being built to have a company or companies specialize in their production. The proposed building would be 125' long and 200' long. The running track around the center courts would be about .1 mile.

The financial consultant said that by refinancing bonds there would be some savings. The effect of the refinancing would be that the costs of the project would not appear until either 2022 or 2023 and then for six years the bond repayments would be higher than they otherwise would be. There was something about financing being done with a lease that I did not understand.

Then it was time for public comments. Most people speaking were in favor, with many pointing out that Rensselaer Schools have limited indoor practice space so that early morning and late evening practices are needed for some teams and that these times may impair school work. Some pointed to benefits to the community at large and said that the building was needed to move the community forward. Also mentioned was the trend for building prices to rise 2 or 3 percent a year and the very low current interest rates, which may not persist.

Those who had reservations focused on the financing. The rise in assessed valuation mentioned at the beginning is almost entirely due to the rising value of farm land and as a result farm land owners would pay a disproportionate share for the facility. A flat tax rate has not meant flat taxes to farmers. Their tax payments have increased because the assessed value of their land has increased. Also, the legislature is changing the way farm land is assessed and with the poor harvest last year and declining crop prices, the value of farm land may decline. If it does, the tax rate may have to exceed the .66 level that the board wants to keep as a maximum.

Then it was time to take up the approval of the preliminary project determination resolution. Koczan moved but there was no second, so president of the board Luddington relinquished the chair to Korniak so he could second. Parrish wanted to table, but Luddington wanted a discussion first so he called on the board members for their comments, ending with Parrish. Parrish moved to table, which Zeider seconded. The vote was four in favor with three against, not meeting the required 2/3 vote needed to pass. A vote was then taken on the main motion. In favor were Koczan, Korniak, and Luddington. Opposed were Parrish, Zeider, Lane, and Cozza. With that vote the proposal died and if it is reintroduced, the process muse begin anew.

The room then emptied and the Board took a short recess before finishing the rest of the agenda. They approved a roofing contract for the high school for $78,400 and had a long discussion about a safety response service that works through a cell phones application. The service has been recommended by the sheriff's office and the Rensselaer Police Department. It would have a one-button push that would give a faster response than calling 911 in case of threat of harm in a school. It would also have a second level push that would alert adminstrators to a stress situation in a classroom. The way the system is configured will be largely determined by the school administration. The cost was $4000 setup and $400 per month maintenance fee. The proposal passed.

The board also approved a number of other items before adjourning. The meeting lasted nearly three hours.


Ed said...

Glad to see that Rensselaer is towing the status quo of Indiana... fat and out of shape. Sad.

Anonymous said...

The more things change the more they remain the same, even though the big farmers are not ON the school board anymore, they sure as shooting RUN the school board still.

The best part to me was in the paper where this article was right on top of "Local Farmers Receive 53 Million Dollars"

It's ok for them to receive money from insurance or get govt subsidies, but by god nothing better raise their taxes!

They need that money for their 40k trucks and cars, their 300k combines and tractors, who cares 80% of the community are not farmers or how many sports, programs, or students this screws.

Anonymous said...

For fat and out of shape Ed, I hear Greyhound has upgraded to some oversize seats. Allow me to rent you one, one way to Illinois.

For anonymous, there are farmers on the school board, there always have been.
#2. Insurance proceeds are paid to people who have a right to a claim. They are called premiums. That's where the customer pays $$ to be covered.
#3. Jasper county has the highest agricultural receipts in the state. So, let's think, how many people are employed selling and servicing all these millions in vehicles and equipment, all the while benefitting from the taxes collected for sales, income (heard of LOIT?)and property. Not to mention the employees of these products. There are nearly 50 agribusiness in Jasper County. What do you think they, and their employees are there for? It's the economic engine that drives this county and keeps the tank full. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

It's just wrong for people appointed to represent people to vote against the wants of the people. And for that matter, this vote would not have meant it would happen, but was only a vote to allow a petition for the community to sign for or against. As always, in this community, the short sided view wins to protect the few and alienate the masses. These folks should be ashamed to keep their posts.

Anonymous said...

The masses? Workers of the world unite!

Anonymous said...

For anonymous "always have been".

There has always been murder, doesn't mean there still should be. Great argument!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the Rensselaer community would be all in to having a volunteer fund raising project for all to donate into- bet even the farmers would chip in.. Go for it!

Anonymous said...

Thank you school board members who considered the financial burden this would have put on property taxes.We need to decrease school debt not increase it.

Unknown said...

OMG a genius with a keyboard. 🙉

Anonymous said...

So people who work out of town and bring money back and also shop locally at small businesses within the community don't have a part in keeping the "tank" full - is that what you're saying?

Anonymous said...

Thank you school board for a wise decision. Let us, please, reduce debt; not increase it. There are gyms available in the other school buildings.

Anonymous said...

So it is about the sports programs and not about being a community center. When did sports become more important than the education of our students? When will people step back and realize that sports and a lot of other extracurricular activities are "only" an extension of education. Why are we more concerned on how well our athletic teams do than how well prepared our children are leaving the high school? Why not spend the money on our educators and on programs to help develop our youth to become productive members of society.

Does anyone remember what caused the crash in our economy in 2008? Have we already forgotten what got us into this mess that we're still trying to dig out of? Most of it was caused by spending beyond our means. Get whatever we want, and maybe need, adding more debt until things collapse and we don't have a way to pay it back.

Comments were made last evening about our forefathers building this school system into what it is today and I am very thankful for there sacrifices to do so. What I'm also very confident in is they did it in a fiscally responsible way. In those days, debt was incurred and paid off before more debt was considered. We have just finished a very expensive primary school and have a number of years before it is paid off. Lets retire this debt before taking on more.

Lastly, farmers are business men and women. They pay more than there fair share of taxes, and yes, the taxes they pay are an expense to their bottom line. So, like all good business people, they have to keep an eye on expenses. If we were to remove the 20% farmers (80 percent of the community are not farmers- see above) tax dollars, where would we be? Farmers feed the world and we all eat.

RoadRunner1117 said...

It's very difficult to follow a conversation where most everyone wants to remain "Anonymous". It would be nice if commenters identified themselves in some way.

WileCoyote said...

Hey...Roadrunner long time no see....

OMG, poor, poor pitiful farmers thank you so much for all that you do for the greater good by paying more than your share and feeding the world. Also, thank you for removing all of the woods and prairie that made our landscape so ugly and replacing it with beautiful dirt on every possible square inch so that you could produce way more than the world needs each year and throw the rest away. Thank you for coming from our forefathers who created this school system by sacrificing so much. You must be proud to have come from the lineage that created a school system that performs so poorly in most areas including pay for it's employees. At least now I know who to thank for all of the generosity. Keep doing what you's appreciated.

Anonymous said...

So Wilecoyote

You do then agree the money would be better spent on education? Are you seriously going to say there is no hunger in this world? And, no thanks is needed. I will continue to help feed the world that you say doesn't need fed. Facts are facts.

WileCoyote said...

I agree that you can't see the future because you want to live in the past. It's OK..don't feel bad, you have that right.

Facts are facts. Billions of tons of crop are thrown away each year...not handed to the hungry. You still get yours though and that's what matters.

Anonymous said...

Live in the past? Can't see the future? Please go back and reread my original post. It has everything to do with giving the educators the necessary tools to develop our children into productive citizens after graduation. You seem to want to twist things around to fit your agenda. It's ok. Don't feel bad, you have that right. What?

I sense your disapproval of farmers and those who grow the food that you and I eat each and every day. I assume you eat at least one meal a day, correct? Did you grow that meal yourself? Will you vowel never to eat anything raised by a farmer again? You are correct that some of the crops and meats raised do not make it to the mouths of those who need it. Most of that has to do with the lack of infrastructure in the 3rd world nations and government bureaucracy. There is spoilage of food right here in the USA. So we should stop producing food? Where's your logic coming from?