When it meets next week, the Baker School Board is expected to give final approval to a plan that will ask voters to approve a $7.5 million bond measure in the May 19 election.
The Board made a final review of the plans that would relieve overcrowding and make safety and security upgrades in district schools during a work session Thursday night.
If voters approve the bond proposal, the District will add to it a $4 million matching grant received through the Oregon School Capital Improvement (OSCIM) program, $2 million from the District’s Capital Projects Fund and $3 million from the Student Success Act, state funding approved by the 2019 Legislature, part of which can be used to pay for school safety improvements.
That would bring the total improvement project cost to $16.5 million.
Superintendent Mark Witty assured the Board that money taken from the Capital Projects Fund would not deter progress on other needed maintenance work.
A South Baker Intermediate roofing project will remain on schedule as well as a roofing project over the welding area at Baker Technical Institute in the northwest wing of Baker High School, Witty said.
Other targeted maintenance projects not included as part of the bond measure work include improvements to the Baker High School auditorium, built in 1950.
“We have a community group working with a contractor to take a look at it,” Witty said. “That is the best space in Baker County. It’s as good a space as we have and we haven’t put money into that for years.”
Improvements to Baker Bulldog Memorial Stadium is another project the District is looking at separate from the work funded by the bond measure.
Witty said recent “nonscientific surveys” of the staff and parents indicate that both groups show strong support for the new bond measure plan.
“Safety and security is the biggest yes overall,” he said.
A $48 million bond measure that would have included building a new elementary school was defeated in the November 2018 election by a wide margin. That sent the District back to the drawing board with a greatly reduced plan based on voter comments that they wanted a smaller bond that would pay to remodel existing buildings rather that new construction.
The $48 million bond proposal would have been repaid by District patrons over 30 years at a rate of $1.97 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Under the new plan, District patrons will be asked to repay the bond over 10 years at a rate of 66 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
If the Board chooses to move forward with the bond measure at its Jan. 16 meeting, the District will have until Feb. 28 to file a ballot title request with the County Clerk.
In other business during the work session Thursday, Mitch Saul, of Solutions Certified Public Accountants in John Day, spoke to the Board about the District’s 2018-19 audit.
“All indicators are positive,” Saul reported to the Board.
Rather than reviewing the audit report in the 20 minutes allotted for his presentation, Saul instead spoke about items listed in a management letter. These are issues that do not rise to the level of an audit finding, his report stated.
In working with Michelle Glover, who was hired as the District’s business manager in March, Saul said he was challenged to formalize the issues in a letter as a tool “to hold management accountable.”
Saul said he met with Witty, as he has done in the past, to inform him of the issues. Corrective action plans have been developed.
Matters noted in the management letter are:
• Inconsistencies and lack of controls for the documentation, review and approval over the payroll process.
A new software program also contributed to the problem in payroll when teachers were replaced, Saul said. A “handful” of teachers received two step increases on the salary schedule in the past year as a result.
• Inconsistencies and lack of controls for the documentation, review and approval of journal entries. Such inconsistencies set the District up “to have fraud committed,” Saul said.
• Issues associated with month-end closing procedures. Saul said for example, closing work done on June 30 at the Baker Charter School had not been billed.
• Lack of ongoing maintenance of the Depreciation Schedule. This has been an ongoing issue in the District, Saul said. He suggested the District place someone in charge of assuring that the schedule is kept up to date.