New Superintendent ready to move district forward

 

ALMONT — Although they are in the midst of the hiring process for yet another Financial Director for the district, the Almont school board was able to hear an updated report on their 2023-2024 budget.

At a work shop session held Monday, March 11, board members were given a glimpse of the budget and took action on amendments in relation to the provided information.

A representative with Maner Costerisan, a financial advising company for school districts and other entities, was able to give a brief overview of the district’s budget and reported much of the budget appeared to be in good shape. The firm is based in West Michigan.

Among the documents given to the board electronically, were reports showing various line items as well as overall revenues and expenditures. The district’s budgeted and amended fund balance for all accounts was discussed and reflected a swing of more than $1.1 million from what was budgeted and what was amended as of Monday evening.

Almont school board trustee Rick Battani (left) reviews the school’s budget. Also pictured is Vice President Janaea Smith (cream shirt) and Board President Angela Edwards (far right). The board discussed 2023-2024 budget amendments at a meeting last week.

Among the line item changes was with district wide security, a topic of concern that has been at the top of every school district’s list of priorities in the state.

Although Almont had budgeted $256,719 for the year, with new safety systems and improved building security, that line item was increased to $422,662, an additional cost of $165,943.

Almont officials acknowledge a large turnover of staff recently, both administratively and with educators.

Through newly negotiated contracts, there was a modest increase in budgeted funds for pay increases to teaching staff.

The transition for a new superintendent changed the budgeted amount in the Executive Administration line item from $352, 487 to $398,367, an increase of $45,881 that was attributed to the new superintendent position.

Thirty-year Almont educator Kimberly VonHiltmayer recently had the “interim” tag taken off her title, after the board decided to offer her the position with a three-year contract.

She had stepped in to the interim role after the board reassigned former Supt. Bill Kalmar to a lesser position in the district which ultimately led to his departure from the district.

VonHiltmayer, in an earlier interview with the Tri-City Times, said she, “stepped into the fire” when she first came on board as the new top administrator for the district.

“It’s been an extremely busy time, these past 10 months,” she said. “We’ve had a lot to deal with internally and with the bond issue. I definitely hit the ground running. I am excited and thankful to the board for giving me this opportunity, and we are going to work hard to move the district forward in a positive direction. I am working with a great staff who has been very helpful and supportive.”

In other amended budget items, the Total School Administration line was set at $1,197,071 and was adjusted by $44,626 to the new amount of $1,241,697, due to updated contractual compensation and the position of Dean of Students.

Total general fund revenues for 2023-2024 were originally set at $17,265,869 before being amended upwards to $18,413,751, an addition of more than $1.1 million.

The district had reflected their beginning fund balance to be $1,661,899 as of July 1, 2023 and showed an ending fund balance of $1,173,039.

The updated amended budget reflects a beginning fund balance of $2,230,800 and an ending fund balance at the end of the fiscal year to be $2,198,762.

The financial firm giving the virtual report said the district could expect to add to their overall fund balance and the district’s finances, “are in really good shape.”

In other meeting notes, Supt. VonHiltmayer made board members aware of a state plan of universal preschool with talks taking place at the state level.

The Supt. said the district is currently very tight in allowed space for their preschool program, but that she had thrown the district’s name into the ring of potential grant funding for an additional $25,000 for another section of preschool in Almont, if a decision was moved forward.

VonHiltmayer said she has had contact with 21 families in regards to the Almont pre-school program with the a.m. session being the most sought after time slot.

The Superintendent said a district hiring team was conducting second round interviews for a new Finance Director and was anticipating to have a candidate in place in the coming weeks. In the meantime, a number of staff members continue to gather information for the upcoming 2024-2025 budget that is to be in place by the end of June.

Lastly, although it was thought the board may have some discussion of the recently failed $58.4 million school bond issue, Supt. VonHiltmayer simply updated the board on her plans to meet with community leaders and other district residents for feedback on where to go from here.

She has made the board aware of a tight timeline of dates to meet with state required information, if they choose to seek another bond issue in August.

The board also has the option of the November general election.

Board President Angela Edwards said the board would not discuss the matter until all of the information was gathered from the public meeting.

At an upcoming meeting, it is expected the board will process the information given by the public, discuss their options and then decide if and when they would bring a ballot proposal back to the taxpayers.

The board is scheduled to meet Monday, March 18.