Gwinn finances improve

GWINN – With an increase in the district’s fund balance and an apparent consensus on future goals by the school board, it seems the Gwinn school district is getting back on the right track.

The board heard a financial update during its meeting Monday evening that included a roughly $278,000 surplus, the result of extra special education money and funds for state and court-appointed students. That will bring the general fund balance up to just more than $500,000.

“We’re definitely headed in the right direction,” business manager Amy Luoma said.

Gwinn Area Community Schools had faced devastating budget cuts in the past couple of years, closing down an elementary school and working with district employees to limit the costs of contracts.

Interim Superintendent Stephen Piereson and several board members expressed their thankfulness toward the Gwinn Area Education Association as both parties worked earlier in the year to finalize a contract that saw no raises for the teachers for the next three years.

“The teachers have been troupers in all this,” Piereson said.

In other action, the board discussed the future of the district and how best to bring a K-12 complex to fruition.

The board had previously discussed going to voters to request a sinking fund millage as well as a bond issuance. The former would pay for maintenance of buildings. The latter would finance technology upgrades and additions to an aging bus fleet.

However, another millage would be needed to fund the complex, which the board agreed was the ultimate goal. Getting there, on the other hand, proved to be difficult to agree on.

Trustee Bill Nordeen said requesting funding a third time from voters would likely not go well for the district.

“How much money are you going to put into that building, knowing that you’re plan is to leave there,” Nordeen said of possible upgrades to K.I. Sawyer Elementary School that would come from the sinking fund.

Trustee Joe Boogren said the board needed a plan before it went to the voters.

Piereson offered a bit of advice to the board, saying without consensus it would not receive the votes needed for approval.

“The board has got to be in a harness, all seven board members,” Piereson said.

In other action, the board adopted its annual agreement with Wells Township schools to bus middle and high school students to the Gwinn district and approved a resolution confirming the district complied with at least seven of the eight Best Practices outlined by the state. Following the practices will bring $52 in additional state funding per pupil.