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Highlands School Board poised to raise spending

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By George Guido
Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 12:46 a.m.
 

Highlands School Board is headed toward final approval of its budget in June.

Board members said on Monday night that next year's preliminary budget keeps the real estate tax rate at 23.8 mills.

Next year's budget is proposed to be $41.5 million, a nearly 6 percent jump from this year's spending program of $39.3 million.

Officials said earlier taking some money from the reserve fund, an expected increase in the state subsidy and replacing a number of retirees with younger employees at lower salaries will help balance the budget.

Technology update

Questeq CEO Jeffrey Main offered an update on his company's progress over six months of overhauling the school district's technology.

Grandview, Fairmount and Fawn elementary schools, the middle school and the high school have been rewired to a common host server.

Computer labs and libraries are on the same system. About 750 Hewlett-Packard tablets have been distributed to faculty and some students.

In the next six months, Questeq hopes to update the aging student information system and put network and server infrastructure in place.

Questeq will move the district from Windows XP to Windows 7 during the summer.

Questeq will have another update for the school board in November.

In other business

• The school district will buy a new vertical lift and a new dump truck.

The 1986 lift is out of commission, and spare parts can no longer be obtained. The district expects to spend nearly $11,000 for a new unit in this school year's budget.

A new Ford F-350 truck will be bought for about $50,000 under a state bidding program using money from either next school year's budget or from a bond issue, according to officials.

The new truck will plow snow more efficiently. Officials said the district will forego buying a new van for now.

• The school board on Monday is expected to approve the $6.8 million budget for Forbes Road Career and Technology Center, which provides vocational education for Highlands students.

The center's budget increased about 2 percent from this year.

• Resident Karen Wantland said she wanted to see the school district toughen its oversight of boosters clubs, particularly with the state's new licensing program for small games of chance being more widely used by such groups.

Superintendent Michael Bjalobok said new district policies will be enforced starting next year, among them a requirement that each boosters club submit a roster of officers to him.

George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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