The Harlan Community School District’s board of education held a public hearing regarding the Merrill Field Project, Monday. During their regular meeting, no comments were heard from the public on the project. Superintendent Justin Wagner told the board about some changes that have been made on the Merrill Field design. The plan going forward is to remove the bleachers in front of the concession stand on the west side and to use boards from those bleachers to fix the elementary bleachers on the northwest side.
The track, which will be completely redone, will feature a safety lane from end-zone to end-zone on each side of the football field and the cyclone logo will be in the middle of the field. Originally, the plan was to have the word cyclones written out on the field but those have been removed to save money. In all, Merrill Field will lose about 300 seats. The final plans and design will be made at the next Harlan Community School board meeting Monday, January 20th.
In other business, the board approved the audit report. Superintendent Wagner says there are a few things Board members should be aware of as a result of the audit. The first is the district’s levy is very low ,at $11.74 per thousand dollars valuation. He said the average for the state is right around $14.50. The financial solvency ratio for the district which measures the financial health of the District, is 29.1-percent. Experts recommend an average of 8-to 12- percent. Wagner said also, the district’s unspent authority again is $8.1 million, which he says is “Very good.”. Last year’s AEA average was $1.9 million. The District’s expenditures are higher than revenues. Wagner says that’s because they have to spend down their cash reserve levy. Wagner said “Some people will look at it and say we are spending more than we are taking it in, that’s because we have to spend that cash reserve levy down to get underneath that 20 percent.” Wagner said also, the district operated within its certified budget.
The Harlan Community School board approved the audit. Superintendent Wagner then showed the board results of a recent survey handed out to students, parents and the community. The first question on the survey dealt with when the district should start school. The survey showed 64 percent of students want the same schedule currently as well as 26 percent of the teachers and 34 percent of the community. Wagner said there is a push from the state to take the start date of school districts out of local control but the survey shows the majority in the Harlan Community district would like to keep it the same. One other topic from the survey was drinking and drugs.
Wagner said the vast majority of respondents thought the District could do more to combat underage drinking and drug use. The survey showed over 50 percent of the staff and students while 43 percent of the community believes the school district can do more. The same question was asked for drug use and the results were similar. Wagner said the administration is already discussing the issue and more information will come at a later school board meeting.