CHARLEVOIX — At a special board meeting Monday, the Charlevoix Public Schools Board of Education passed an operating budget for the 2013-2014 school year more robust than it expected.
During a public hearing that took place before the board meeting, Lori Martinchek, director of finance and administrative services said over the weekend, she learned that the 2013-2014 contribution to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System had changed.
Previously, the school projected that it would have just $25,000 in the fund balance at the end of the year. Now, with the change in the cost of the retirement system, the school projects to have $131,820 in its fund balance at the end of the 2014 school year.
"You keep finding hundreds of thousands of dollars," said board trustee Dick Joseph to Martincek.
That should be about 1 percent of its operating budget.
"I believe after the audit is done, we'll have that approximate 1 percent (of the operating budget)," said Martincek.
"Ten percent is a healthy number, so we have got some growing to do," said superintendent Bob Gendron. "We have to be continually stabilizing enrollment and look at different revenue sources so we can get ourselves to that point."
The board also voted 4-3 to approve a long-frozen measure to outfit each of its students with iPads. The district will use $388,795 from the 2008 technology bond to purchase iPads and associated technological needs for each of the district's students. That number includes a rebate grant that would kick back about $70 for each iPad purchased. The district could recoup as much as $48,000.
Board treasurer and secretary Val Snyder and trustees Mike Pearsall, Dick Joseph and Nancy Allison voted for the spending while trustee Glen Catt, vice president Kevin Pearsall and board appointee Bo Boss voted against the measure.
"In 2008, back when we passed the technology bond, iPads were just a thought at that time," said Bo Boss, who was recently appointed to the board vacancy. "I'm a business-owner. I would be paranoid that I was going to go broke if I didn't keep enough money in the checking account."
He pointed to the high school roof, which could need as much as $300,000 in repairs within two years.
"I still want to go 1-to-1 with iPads. I'm just uncomfortable allocating $388,000 today," said Catt.
Discussion sparked, particularly after several teachers and community members attended the meeting to give their support of the iPad initiative during public comment.
"I have two incoming juniors, and last year, they were lucky enough to be part of the iPad roll-out," said Charlevoix resident Stacey Stewart. "They're twins, but they're individual kids and especially learners. The iPads let them learn the exact same lesson at the level and style appropriate to them. It gave instant access to learning tools and teachers."
She said one of her sons received the best grades he has ever earned.
"He uses special education services and the growth I saw in him this year was amazing," Stewart said. "(The iPad) was like having a teacher next to him 24/7."
Julie McLean, a third-grade teacher, was part of the team that helped develop a plan to integrate the technology in the classroom.
"It was phenomenal, the things these kids were able to do," said McLean. "They were able to do our take on project-based learning, which is a lot of work on our part. But it was so worth it to see, every day, the kids' computation and math go up, and they weren't losing it on the way home."
In 2008, the bond was divided into different budgets, including $400,000 for buses; $1.5 million for energy reduction and building retrofits; $2.4 million for academic, building and facilities upgrades; and $2.1 million for technology, according to a presentation by technology director Scott Mays. As of June 20, the school had spent about $1.5 million on technology needs, leaving a balance of $612,075 for just the technology portion of the bond.
After spending $388,795 on the iPad initiative, "that will leave about $223,280 on the table to spend on non-technology items," said Mays.
The board will meet next for a regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 15, at the former middle school building.
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This story has been updated to correct the following error: that $388,795 will be spent on the technology initiative, rather than the $488,795 as initially reported.