Pam Stranathan, USD 231 superintendent, gives the superintendent’s report at the Aug. 8 regular meeting of the board of education. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz

Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
The Aug. 8 USD 231 school board meeting brought approval of the budget, continuing construction projects, staff raises, and new policy on service animals.
Budget approved
The budget had been presented and discussed in the previous board meeting. Jeremy McFadden, director of business and finance, told the board that no changes had been made since they reviewed the budget in July, and all that needed to be done was to hold a public budget hearing, and then vote .
The floor was open to public comment regarding the budget. There were none.
The board then voted and approved the budget.
According to McFadden, this is the fifth year the district has decreased its mill levy, down from 69.185 to 67.777. Assessed valuation increased from $264.9 million to $273.6 million, or a tentative 3.3 percent increase. More than 60 certified teaching positions have been added since 2014, with 450 teachers under contract for 2016-17.
Service animals
Dr. Judy Martin, director of special services, presented the board with draft policy regarding service animals on campus. Staff has learned that a student who uses a service animal will be attending school in the near future.
Martin said there currently was no policy in place. She said staff had consulted with legal counsel in creating the draft.
“We are following the federal regulations within American Disabilities Act and then also the Section 504 regulations as well,” said Martin.
There were some questions from the board on exactly how this would work.
“Since this is new to us, it would probably be my suggestion that this is our starting point and as we learn…regarding this topic, then we can come back to the drawing board and make amendments as necessary on what’s going to be best for our school district,” answered Martin.
Motion was made and seconded, the board voted and approved putting the policy in place.
Trails building construction bid
Bruce Kraci, USD 231 director of operations, recommended approval of a construction bid for the new Trails Facility.
Kraci said six bids from general contractors had been received, and that the bidding had been very competitive.
Regarding the recommended bid, Kraci told the board, “The total cost of the bid is $715,733. Based on board’s approval, construction would begin probably later this month, with the intent the structure would be complete next spring, and the facility would be ready for occupancy then for the 2017-2018 school year.”
The board approved the bid.
Increased staff compensation
At 6:20, the board entered executive session, to discuss personnel issues, for twenty minutes, followed by two ten minute extensions.
McFadden was called into the session during one of the extensions.
Upon resuming to open meeting, the board voted on three separate items.
The personnel report was approved as presented.
A contract defining salary schedules was approved.
Increased compensation for administrators and technology staff was approved.
“I think it’s great the board was able to approve those, as well as lower the mill levy this time. It’s a great thing to give staff a raise, to keep us moving forward with competitive salaries, while keeping our taxpayers in mind, so I’m real happy about the results”, said Rob Shippy, board president.