Freedom School Board hears plans for stringent cost cutting


At its June 10 regular meeting, Superintendent James Miller spoke to the Freedom School Board at length – using numerous spreadsheets and charts – about how he is attempting to find ways to reduce expenses for next school year.

Revenue (particularly ad valorem revenue) has been on a steady downward trend over the last five years, and the 2020 estimated appropriation will be almost $250,000 less than in 2019, which itself was more than $90,000 less than in the previous year.

Meanwhile, payroll has increased, due to legislated teacher raises but also because of hiring a full-time superintendent, as well as a librarian, coach and music teacher, which together raised payroll by $100,000.

Miller is attempting to ensure the school continues to have a carryover of at least $500,000 so the school can weather unexpected financial difficulties. The $500,000 carryover would mean the school could continue to operate as normal for six months, in such an eventuality – although Miller said that, of course, if such extreme difficulties were to arise, he and the board would take stronger measures well before six months had gone by.

A spreadsheet of several pages details a variety of planned savings in everything from professional and education services to utility costs (replacing regular light bulbs with LED bulbs in the offices and cafeteria, for example, and finding ways to use water from the school's well rather than using city water), and cutting everything from staff travel to general supplies. Altogether, the cuts would save the school about $57,000 a year.

In addition, Miller plans to save on payroll expenses through attrition – for example, when someone resigns, trying to fill those shoes through existing personnel rather than re-hiring to fill that position, He also plans to eliminate extra-duty stipends and eliminate an outside contract to provide special education (instead tasking those duties to current personnel).

(Later in the meeting, after an executive session, the board accepted the resignation of teacher Scott Renken. The board did, however, approve a $1,000 stipend for Family and Consumer Science teacher Darci Immell.)

Miller is hoping, through various approaches, to also increase state funding by almost $5,000 and increase federal funding significantly: from $82,432 in the 2018-19 school year to $166,271 in the 2019-20 school year.

Strategic Plan Scaled Way Back

The school strategic plan has been dramatically revised, due to the failure of the school bond election. However, some items on that plan are so crucial that they must be carried out regardless, such as capping and repairing the cellar concrete, per a structural engineer's recommendation. The estimate on this work came in at about $10,000. Also, several board members said the weight room siding simply had to be replaced. Miller hopes to have bids on that work ready to present to the board at the June 24 meeting. He also mentioned that he keeps an eye on Facebook and other sites where he might be able to find decent quality weight room equipment at a low cost, and said he has a small activity fund that he can use for those purchases, if he spots a bargain.

The board talked about how and when they might be able to present a revised school bond proposal. Some members suggested simply removing the ag building from the proposal – which would have cut the proposal by $400,000 – but Miller told the board he was advised that that would not be legally considered enough of a substantive change to make bringing another bond proposal possible before at least six months had passed. He will have some consultant recommendations on this issue to bring to the June 24 board meeting, he hopes.

Other Board Business

An agenda item regarding continuing to contract with OSAG for worker's compensation was tabled because the new bid from OSAG had gone up $3,000, due to the teacher raises. Miller is soliciting a bid from another organization, and he hopes to discuss it at the next board meeting, which will be June 24.

The board also approved updated Child Nutrition Procurement Plan and Protest Procedures.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board approved a lengthy consent agenda consisting of general administrative items such as:

• the May 13 meeting minutes

• treasurer's and activity fund reports

• new encumbrances and warrants

• renewed contract with IXL for math and English software

• FY20 payroll dates and activity fund sub-accounts

• continued lease purchases for the activity bus, HVAC and roof for FY20

• David Manning, Woods County treasurer, as the FY20 district treasurer

• Superintendent Miller as receiving agent, purchasing agent, authorized representative and fund custodian for all local, state and federal programs, including but not limited to E-Rate, child nutrition, general, building, sinking, activity and bond funds

• Patricia Dauphin as encumbrance and minutes clerk, district alternative purchasing agent, custodian of the child nutrition fund, and authorized federal programs claim representative

• Freida Burgess as alternative federal programs authorized representative

• Tamara Link as receiving agent, alternative minutes clerk, activity fund custodian and student information manager

• continued calculation of school days by the hour method, maintaining a minimum of 165 days with 1080 hours per school year

• acceptance of dual enrollment credits from Northwest Technology Center and concurrent enrollment college courses toward high school graduation requirements

• 15 activity absences for the 2019-20 school year

• subscription agreement with Oklahoma School Risk Management Trust for property and casualty coverage, board legal liability plan of coverage and minimum uninsured motorist coverage

• regularly scheduled board meetings for 2020

• contract with Dibbles for RSA screener

• contract with Bill Johnson Correctional Center for inmate labor


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