BLACKFOOT – The Blackfoot School Board met Thursday evening where they honored former teacher and principal Ronald Reese and reviewed the finances and audit of the 2018-19 school year.
They also announced a public presentation by “Saving the Kids” speaker Collin Kartchner on the subject of social media and children scheduled for Nov. 7 at 7 p.m., at the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center.
The Blackfoot School District is sponsoring a presentation by the head of the Utah-based Saving The Kids non-profit organization, Collin Kartchner. The topic of his talk is the damage that social media and screen addiction has on the mental health of kids and teens.
Parents and guardians of school-aged children are the target audience for the presentation but all interested members of the public can attend. Kartchner’s aim is to educate everyone on what they need to know about the impact of smart devices and social media on the well-being and safety of school-aged kids.
The talk aimed at parents and guardians will be on Nov. 7, from 7-8:30 p.m., at the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center. Doors open to the public at 6:30 p.m. Kartchner’s presentations are often standing room only so the district is advising that attendees should arrive early to be assured of a seat. Admission for the talk is free.
For those who can’t make the Nov. 7 date because of scheduling conflicts, Kartchner is also speaking on Nov. 4 in Pocatello at the Stephens Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m.
Business Manager Theresa Rowe reported on the district’s September finances, noting that the end of the month cash balance was $5,421,415, which was $188,000 more than this time last year.
The board listened to a half-hour presentation by Superintendent Brian Kress on the finances for District 55 for the 2018-19 school year. This report preceded the acceptance by the board of the 2018-19 independent audit for the district.
Kress emphasized the improvement in the district’s monetary health, noting that the district ended the 2017-18 fiscal year with a positive balance of $56,332 and ended the 2018-19 fiscal year with a positive balance of $400,000. This represents an overall improvement of $343,668.
It also marks the second year in a row that the district has ended the year in the black since the financial emergency of six years ago, when the district found itself with an unexpected $1.4 million deficit. Since Kress took over five years ago as superintendent, the Blackfoot schools have made steady progress back toward financial health.
“Our revenues were better than our projections,” Kress noted. The district had budgeted for $26,108,362 total revenues from all sources, including bonds, state funds and federal monies. The school system received $26,248,371 in actual revenues, which exceeded projections by $140,009.
“In contrast,” Kress remarked, “our total expenditures were budgeted for $25,957,598 but our actual expenditures were $35,885,114, which is a surplus of $72,484.”
Not all of the district’s financial accounts were well behaved. Kress noted two rough spots in the district’s finances, those being the child nutrition program and transportation. Regarding the transportation budget, Kress remarked that it was “the bane of my existence,” commenting that “no matter how hard I try, I am never quite about to get it to behave the way I believe it should.” Kress outlined that the transportation fund had a budget of $2,076,346 but had actual expenditures of $2,171,886, an overage of $95,640.
The overruns had two sources. The first was virtual, in that many transportation costs, like those for field trips, are reimbursed but that the funds do not arrive until the fiscal year after the expenses occur. The other source was from unexpected costs of transportation for special education and special needs students. The district needed to add an extra route and hire an additional aide for these students last year, which was unanticipated cost when the budget was put together.
The other problem program was the child nutrition program, whose revenues include federal sources with arcane funding formulas and not-very-friendly paperwork requirements. The program also is burdened with state and federal nutritional requirements which, Kress commented, “make it hard to make a presentable meal.”
The child nutrition program had a negative carry-over of $313,466 from the 2017-18 school year. Its revenues were $1,634,948 and its expenses were $1,591,923. Because of the negative balance from the year before, the program ended in the red with a negative balance of $270,440.
This represents an actual improvement of $43,026 over the previous year. The district decided to transfer $25,577 into the program account from general operating funds to help reduce its deficit. Kress was optimistic that the district would be able to continue its progress in eliminating the negative balance in this account.
Given the previous $1.4 million deficit from 2014 and the district’s continuous improvement back into the black, board chairman Dewane Wren remarked that, “This has been a long time coming but we still have a ways to go.”
Kress added that the district’s goal was now to continue building its reserves back up. “We really should have a reserve large enough to cover at least one month of expenses.” The district’s averaged monthly expenses are over $2 million.
The school board and district honored the service of past teacher and principal Ronald Reese with the gift of the bulldog symbol from off of the flag pole at the Blackfoot Heritage Sixth Grade School (BHSG).
Reese spent 42 years as an educator for the Blackfoot School District. When the student population of the Mountain View Middle School became too large for its building, the sixth grade was split into its own school. Reese became the first principal of the newly-created BHSG, housed in what was once Blackfoot High School before the 1960s.
As the first principal, Reese was responsible for choosing the original BHSG mascot of the bulldog. He had a gold-painted silhouette of a bulldog mounted on the top of the school’s flag pole.
Since that time, BHSG decided to adapt the bronco as a mascot but the bulldog still reigned on top of the flagpole. The flag pole was renovated this summer and the old bulldog was finally retired from his perch.
It was decided that the best use of the retired bulldog would be to send it home to Reese in honor of the four decades he gave to serving Blackfoot’s public schools. Reese was at the board meeting to receive the bulldog mounted on a commemorative plaque. He was accompanied by several members of his family, including one great-granddaughter and his son, former Blackfoot Mayor Scott Reese.