The school board started their November meeting by receiving a certificate of recognition presented by members of the Gettysburg Teachers Association who were kicking off American Education Week. The teachers said it was to let the board know they are an important, vital part of making the school run so well.
Representing the EMTs, Beth Hamburger asked the board about ambulance parking at football games. She said at a game where a player was seriously injured, she received word that the EMTs did not respond, but said they could not see what was happening on the field from where they were located. She also said that the protocol is that they are called onto the field by the coach. She said parking the ambulance on the west side of the field would provide a better view of the entire field and easier access.
EMT Tember Johnson clarified that they do not go onto the field unless asked, and they could not
see what was happening on that end of the field and were not called to attend, so did no realize the serious nature of the injury.
The board talked about rearranging the parking, noting the spaces are too tight since they were originally designed for cars and most of the vehicles at the games are larger pickups and SUVs. It was agreed that a plan will be made to accommodate the ambulance parking request.
Hamburger also requested that Johnson, who serves as the secretary at the school, be allowed to take in-town emergency ambulance calls while she is working. Hamburger said they have had calls where only one EMT has been able to respond in town, and it would be at Johnson’s discretion on whether she could leave or not. Hamburger also asked the board members to consider if it were one of their family members in need, would they want her to be able to leave and take that call. It was made clear she was not asking for transfers, but only those calls in town as needed. Johnson said that although they have a lot of EMTs, few are active and there are a lot who are unable to respond during the work day. Hamburger said that they are volunteer EMTs and they all have jobs, but asked the board to consider the need they have for the entire community.
The board said that was more of an administrative decision. The EMTs were thanked for what they do for the community.
Toby Morris from Dougherty and Company of Pierre met with the board regarding the school bond.
He talked about how to issue a bond to refinance, lock in today’s rate, and apply it when the current bond is callable, which is in 2021. They need to look at what they see coming, and he said that what they have heard in the past six months through the news or on Twitter is that the president is coming out with increased interest rates. He said if the board would refinance it today, the savings don’t happen tomorrow but rather in 2021 or 2022. He explained the changes in the savings based on the change of rates.
He also said that in 2013 he started working with the governor’s office to create the State Intercept Program, where the board can bounce off the credit of the state of South Dakota, explaining that the higher the rating, the lower the interest rate. The goal was to get the state to a AAA credit rating, and did, so the school can now bounce off the state’s credit and receive that same triple A. He said it has saved tremendous amounts of money for school districts because the differential on the interest rates are great. It was also explained that Gettysburg would be guaranteeing their general fund receipts because the general fund state aid comes from the state, so if there is a default, the state sends the check to the bond holders versus the school’s state aid, and that isn’t going to happen. That could save a half a percent on the overall borrowing.
A couple things to look at would be, if you borrow today on this they can fix their rate for another roughly 20 years under three percent, which is much better than what they currently have. If the rates drop in six or seven years from now, they could refinance at that point, too. If rates skyrocket at that time, they are locked in at this lower rate for the remainder life of the bond. He said they know it cannot get any worse than what they having, with worse meaning three percent, and they can only improve upon it. He said they are looking at the future asking what makes the most sense. If the board would want to look at reducing the debt but keeping the debt service the same, the levy in theory should go down, but more is not being asked of the taxpayer than what was asked from day one. That way they could shave off years on the back and save a million dollars of interest costs.
Business manager Barb Everson said there probably would not be discussion about this now if it weren’t for the president’s proposed tax legislation. Morris made it clear he was not there to push it, but hard decisions need to be made and it completely caught them off guard that they would even fathom doing the tax reform on the backs of government for saving money.
He recommended a resolution that does not obligate the board but at least starts the legal process. He said if it looks like it won’t happen, they can wait. If the tax changes are going to happen, he recommended going forward because they are still improving nearly one million dollars.
He said it is a more in-depth financing and the main thing is for the board to feel comfortable with it. The main thing is that there is no risk with the advance. It was determined to have the board’s attorney review it. More information will be provided to the board before a decision is made.
Everson reported that a waver meeting with the accountability board is also scheduled, and Everson said she believes the recommendation will be coming soon.*
Superintendent Chip Sundberg reported that attendance in the elementary is slightly higher than this point last year, and there are 44 students with perfect attendance compared to 32 last year. He is also working on an updated crisis management plan.
The next meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m.
The minutes are published in the Nov. 23 edition of the News and online at www.pottercountynews.com and www.sdpubicnotices.com.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: The school was granted an unconditional waiver on Nov. 17 by the accountability board for correctly meeting their guidelines.