Archived Story

Teachers’ union president questions board’s inactivity

Published 2:28pm Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Niles Community Schools is in a position to receive almost $400,000 in additional funds from the state through an incentive called Financial Best Practices.

The state enacted the best practices legislation on June 21 of this year, but the Niles Board of Education has not yet applied to receive the funds. The deadline is June 1, 2012.

Katherine Elsner, president of the Niles teachers’ union, wants to know why the school board hasn’t applied for these funds, especially since the district is facing projected budget issues.

“Your initial budget projections indicated a shortfall for this school year of $2.9 million,” said Elsner during Monday’s school board meeting. “This additional funding through best practices could help meet that.

“We would like to urge the board to apply to receive the best practices funds from the state,” she said.

Elsner said 177 school districts in the state are already receiving best practices funds, which amount to an additional $100 per student. Local schools receiving these funds include Brandywine, Buchanan and Dowagiac, Elsner said.

Niles has a student population of 3,870, meaning it would receive about $387,000 through the best practices incentive. It is a one-time payment for this school year.

In order to be eligible for best practices funds, a school district must comply with at least four of five “financial best practices” determined by the state.

Supt. Richard Weigel said his district is in compliance with at least four of the five and possibly all five.

“We are waiting for our lawyer to give us his perspective on that last piece before we send it in,” Weigel said. “I’d rather do five of five, than four of five.”

Weigel said he anticipates getting the best practices funds in the spring.

The Niles school board and the Niles teachers’ union are currently in mediation trying to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. Negotiations have been ongoing for almost a year.

Best Practices

In order to be eligible for the state’s best practices incentive, school districts need to be in compliance with at least four of the following five financial best practices:

• Charge employees at least 10 percent of the health care premium

• Hold policy on medical benefit plans (if directly employed by district)

• Develop and implement a Service Consolidation Plan

• Obtain competitive bids on non-instructional services

• Provide a dashboard or report card with specific indicators

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