Lyle board closer to normalPublished 10:08am Tuesday, March 20, 2012
LYLE — Though there’s still plenty of work to do, the Lyle school board and Interim Superintendent Joe Guanella set the tone for positive meetings in the future.
Guanella set the room straight early on, walking board members and the public alike through expectations he had for board meetings, setting clear boundaries and offering his opinions to give the public as much information as possible.
“There’s very little that the board can’t discuss out in the open,” Guanella said.
Board members still struggled with its public comment policy, as the board did not complete enough policy readings to implement a new, less restrictive policy. Guanella’s advice for the board to return to its original policy and to let people speak for as long as they wanted was met with audience appreciation and slight applause.
“We thank you for letting us speak,” said Darwin Small. “This is what we needed done.”
In addition, the audience appeared pleased with Guanella’s transparent ways concerning school finances. Guanella told the board he will explain any expense more than $1,000 on the school’s finance report each month. He will bring the district’s bills with him to point out the exact item the school is paying for as well.
Yet for all the celebrations, the board had to deal with serious concerns, chief among them revising the district’s budget for this year and beginning to plan for next year.
“You are on a very fine line — a very fine line — to get into financial debt trouble,” Guanella told the board before reviewing the district’s finances.
According to the revised budget, Lyle’s total funds will drop from about $1.05 million to about $773,000, losing about $271,000 to expenditures this year. In addition, Lyle’s general fund is projected to drop from about $543,000 to about $304,000.
Business Manager Dan Schroeder cautioned the board against getting too worried about the numbers, as he and Guanella are just starting to look at the board’s finances. Schroeder and Guanella told the board some of the district’s funding appeared to be placed in the wrong fund category, which would account for some of the jumps and dips in Lyle’s budget.
For example, the district’s equipment budget was marked at $3,000 under the initial budget for this fiscal year, which stretches from June 2011 to June 2012. District officials marked about $68,000 in the equipment category under the revised budget, which Schroeder said was closer to the district’s previous budgets.
“How you come up with $3,000 is beyond me,” he said.
Schroeder and Guanella said it was difficult to know why the budget was structured in a seemingly odd manner without documentation. Schroeder said the only documentation he had concerning last year’s budget was a one-page spreadsheet listing the broad category totals.
Former Superintendent Jim Dusso was in charge of the budget last year before Grand Meadow and Glenville-Emmons Superintendent Jerry Reshetar proposed sharing a business manager last September. Dusso also asked the board to hire Springsted Inc., a company specializing in public sector finances, as its financial adviser last August.
Guanella and Schroeder said they would look through the budget to find out where more of the money was placed, in order to balance the budget a little more effectively. The budget they presented the board was conservatively put together and both men were confident they would find where more of the district’s money went before it was seemingly miscoded.
“We’re pretty confident we’re going to come to a liveable number,” Guanella said.
In other news, the board:
• Learned it would receive $20,000 in integration funding to use on Success Coaches and interdistrict integration opportunities. Lyle is a part of an integration coalition with Austin, Albert Lea, Southland and Hayfield Public Schools.
• Set a tentative time for an extensive workshop to explain district finances, student enrollment, and community outreach. Guanella will tentatively meet with the board at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 in what he described as a three- to four-hour meeting. Guanella said the workshop is important since the district has two new board members and a new superintendent.
“It’s important that we all get on the same page,” Guanella said.