Looking to continue what has proven to be a fruitful partnership so far, Newton City Manager Bob Myers came before the Newton Board of Education Monday requesting that relationship continue through the extension of an interlocal agreement that formed the Public Building Commission — an organization comprised of the city, school district and Newton Recreation Commission — in 2004.
"This is a rather unique partnership and collaboration that's been done. I would suggest it's been one of the more successful collaborations we have had," Myers said. "It has allowed us to do a number of improvements, many of which probably would not have been able to be done otherwise. The list is pretty impressive of the things we've been able to take on."
Initially, the PBC was organized to tackle renovations of Fischer Field and it was structured as a 20-year agreement to allow for continued maintenance (like replacement of the field turf) as well as collecting contributions from each of the three entities to meet the debt service requirements. Accumulating funds in excess of the debt service would allow for additional projects, though all three entities had to be in agreement.
As the terminus of the original agreement approaches, consideration of its renewal is a natural conversation to be had — and one that becomes more pressing as the city of Newton and Newton Rec Commission continue to discuss a number of improvements to local athletic facilities, from upgrades and the addition of fields at Centennial Park to potential renovations of the Newton swimming pool. The swimming pool in particular is a key focus for the city, as there are some improvements that have to be made before next summer.
"Something has got to be done with the pool and we have to get going on that yet this year," Myers said. "The way that we could pay for that could be through this funding mechanism through the Public Building Commission and the contributions of all three of the entities if we were to continue that relationship."
Options being considered with the pool are handling the base improvements (projected at a cost of around $100,000) or taking a larger scale approach and adding a number of amenities — like zero entry, an additional slide, etc. — for a greater cost (estimated at $1.7 million).
Myers noted he did not expect an answer on Monday, but rather asked that the school board simply consider continuing its participation in the PBC in good faith and extending the interlocal agreement at its foundation for another 20 years — as well as considering an increase in the mills contributed (from .8 to a full mill) to the PBC efforts.
Currently, Myers estimated the 2.4 mills levied by all three entities involved in the PBC generates about $425,000 annually.
While Newton school board members clearly saw the benefit to the district of efforts the PBC has taken on to improve Fischer Field and Centennial Park, questions were raised about how the pool fits into the district's mission. Superintendent Deb Hamm did note, as thin as the connection may be, that the Latchkey program does utilize the facility over the summer months.
"As long as we run a Latchkey program, then that connection might still be there," Hamm said.
Though the board members could see the value of the PBC as it relates to the work that has been put into the football and baseball fields, that connection to the pool was too thin for some to justify the investment.
"I have a really hard time with the pool tying into our missions. If we were fully funded at appropriate levels that we were able to do our mission of education...this wouldn't be quite the concern for me," said board vice president Carol Sue Stayrook Hobbs. "I have concerns about the pool part. The rest of the agreement, I don't think I have a problem with."
"For me, personally, I'm behind all of it," said board member Jennifer Budde. "I just see it as a positive all the way around, and I have no issues moving forward."
Budde views the pool as an amenity that helps draw people to the community, and therefor a value to the district.
Similarly, Myers noted there is some cross-utilization of benefits across the facilities — like the NRC and USD 373 taking advantage of the work done to Fischer Field. The city may not take as much value from that work, but the pool is an area where it certainly could. While Myers noted the feeling of wanting to get a "fair share" is a natural part of any partnership, he also pointed out just how crucial the PBC has been to getting any of the mentioned work done.
"We're only able to do all these things because we're working together," Myers said, "and if we were each working separately I doubt any of us could do any of this to the extent that this has been done."
In other business, the Newton BOE:
Heard a report on the section of the Chisholm Middle School redesign being implemented this year, focusing on personalized learning, before it is launched in its entirety in 2019-2020.
Approved the consent agenda, including a food service program renewal, bills, personnel reports and more.
Adopted to the 2018-2019 budget as published, with no comments made during a public hearing.
Heard an update on the community vision team, with Hamm clarifying the intent to select three representatives from site councils at each level (with members currently being sought out from the middle and high schools), while she also noted the Newton Chamber of Commerce will nominate its selections for the vision team on Wednesday. The first meeting between the board and the vision team is scheduled to be held at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 27.
Approved the negotiated agreement between the Newton branch of the National Educators Association and the school board for the 2018-2019 school year, with 85 percent of the bargaining unit voting to accept the contracts.
Approved the administrator salary index for 2018-2019.
Received a report on 2018-2019 enrollment information, with the numbers broken down by both school and grade level. While there are currently 3,303 students enrolled in the district, Hamm noted the count date (when those numbers become official) is Sept. 20.
Approved a salary index for Classified Directors, a new implementation recommended by Hamm and similar to the index for administrators.