The De Smet Board of Education held its regular meeting Monday, May 11, with COVID-19 pandemic social distancing measures in place. Some board members called or video-conferenced into the session.
• The board accepted the resignation of the girl’s high school basketball coach Doug Osthus. Coach Osthus led the 2018-2019 girls’ team to the State Championship. This year, the girls’ team was headed toward the State Tournament with their winning record, but the season was never finished due to COVID-19 and the suspension of all athletic competitions.
“Coach Osthus has developed an outstanding girls’ basketball program that is recognized as one of the top programs in South Dakota,” Superintendent Abi Van Regenmorter said. “His passion and dedication to basketball will leave a lasting impression in the District.”
• Coach Pat Wheeler resigned from cross country and April Rusche from One-Act Play. Other school personnel resignations included the counselor and several paraprofessionals.
Business Manager Susan Purintun presented the board with the preliminary budget.
“The most important take away from this would be that we are using a zero percent increase in state aid at this time, as cautioned by the State with significant drops in revenues,” Purintun said. “If the two percent increase comes through, then we will revise and consider reopening negotiations, but for now, there are zero increases for the staff until those numbers are secure.”
In reviewing the preliminary budget for the De Smet School District, it is worth noting that the budget is limited by the information available at the current time. There are still many factors to consider before the final budget can be approved.
The District expects a decrease in total budget expenditures of $172,175 from the 2020 budget. According to Purintun, this is such a vague figure that it will most likely change with the proposed budget in July, and it would be better not to use the numbers when they are subject to so many changes at this point.
The expenditure budget is closely in line with the prior year. There were only small increases in the areas of health insurance and maintenance. The District does not expect increases in salaries unless the board sees that the funding will be on-going and maintain the increases.
The most significant change in the new budget was a decrease in capital expenditures due to the new funding formula mandated by the State. The District has decided to put a hold on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary School and old gym area remodels so they can collect input from the public on how the expenditures will be funded. Concerns were addressed regarding the need for improvements at the elementary school, such as plumbing, heating and air conditioning needs, as the facilities are old. The board will continue to break the projects down into phases.
In reviewing the expected revenues for 2021, one of the main factors addressed was the possible change in state funding. At this point, the state officials are still busy trying to determine how the recent COVID-19 pandemic has affected state revenues.
The District expects a rollback of the two percent increase that was part of the package recently approved by the legislature. Depending on the Equalization Office’s valuations, some people will see increases, and others may not understand that this is due to the Department of Revenue “equalizing our local taxes with the State Aid Formula.”
De Smet will continue to use the $200,000 local opt-out in local ad valorem taxes. The difference between using the zero percent and two percent increase in state aid using the Department of Education’s formula amounted to approximately $28,708. These numbers will vary pending final equalization approvals of land appraisals and valuations submitted by Kingsbury County.
The proposed preliminary budget also included possible Care Act dollars the state allocated based on Title funding. These dollars are to be used toward expenditures incurred by continuing education during the COVID-19 outbreak. Federal funding has not yet been changed as the District waits for further possible changes.
In other business, the school board and administration gave high praise to all the teachers and students who have continued to work through all the challenges COVID-19 has presented.
“They’ve done a phenomenal job,” said Van Regenmorter.
• Lake Preston and De Smet schools will be sharing staff this next school year. Plans were approved by the board to share Kayla Vockrodt with Lake Preston as band teacher for both schools. Lynne Brown of Lake Preston will be the choir teacher for both districts.
“These shared positions allow both staff members to teach the content areas that they are most passionate about. It is a true win-win for both districts,” Van Regenmorter said.
• The school board is considering making the high school health class available to the eighth-grade students. Doing so will allow the freshmen the option of taking an elective instead of health their first year in high school. This matter will be voted on in the next board meeting.
• The board approved the renewal of their property and liability insurance with Brian Bindert and EMC Insurance. The rates have gone up this year, but the board is confident in Bindert’s advice on the company and the numbers presented. The school district has few options available for property and liability insurance companies due to past loss history. The board approved the insurance renewal.
• Driver’s Education was pushed back to June this year. There will be four days in classes, and the rest spent driving. Students who finish and test before July 1 will need to drive with an adult for 90 days. After July 1, that time will increase to 180 days. The class is still open for registration. Call the high school to register or for more information.