Friday, August 15, 2014

School District financial committee back on track

Board gives final approval to governing policy

Express Staff Writer

    The Blaine County School District board of trustees gave final approval Tuesday to a new policy that will govern the workings of a financial committee comprised of district officials and volunteers from the public.
    The vote was not unanimous. Vice Chair Kathryn Graves voted no, not because she is against the committee but because she wanted language to be more specific allowing the committee to bring issues to the attention of the board. Also, Trustee Elizabeth Schwerdtle, who attended the meeting via telephone link, was unable to vote because of technical difficulties.
    “The motion approves 3-1, with Liz being cut off because of batteries,” said Board Chairman Shawn Bennion after the vote was taken.
    Discussion of the issue lasted about 40 minutes. Schwerdtle was telephonically in attendance for about half of the discussion but lost her connection after that.
    Trustee Kathy Baker also attended via telephone hookup but was able to maintain her connection throughout the discussion.
    The vote was the second time the board has approved a plan for formation and governance of the committee. A plan was first approved in January, but Bennion said at Tuesday’s meeting that the issue needed to be reconsidered because district policy requires that a recommendation for a new policy be first reviewed by district administration and then submitted to the board with a recommendation.
    The new policy was subsequently reviewed and recommended by administrators, including Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes. The reviewers suggested several revisions to the plan, which were duly accepted by the board.
    One change removed the word “advisory” from the committee name. Holmes said the change was suggested because the committee will be a standing committee and the word advisory suggests that the committee would be temporary. There were several other minor changes in wording, but there were no modifications that would change the basic purpose of the committee, which is to serve as an advisory committee to the board on issues pertaining to finances.
The board also decided to seek additional applicants for the committee.
The district advertised for committee applicants in April and received five. However, Trustee Rick Roberts said it’s not known if the five applicants are still interested or available for appointment and that he would prefer a larger pool of applicants for consideration.
“Right now, with five applicants, that’s the number we need for the committee, so we don’t really have a choice,” Roberts said.
District Communications Director Heather Crocker said details for applying for appointment to the committee will be released next week.
The board anticipates that it will formalize appointments at its next regular monthly meeting on Sept. 9.
“I don’t think it’s something we want to drag our feet on because we’ve been doing it a little bit through this lengthy process,” Bennion said. “There’s nothing pressing pressing, but there are some details that need to be done before too very long.”
    There was only one public comment regarding the committee, which was made by Hulen Meadows resident Barbara Browning after the policy was approved.
    “Thank you,” Browning said. “As someone who has been advocating for a financial committee for over a year and a half—and yes, there was some foot dragging but there were many other issues to be addressed at that time.
    “And please, in your public announcements, in your interactions with everyone, let everyone know that you’re serious, because I have heard some comments coming from people that the board had too many other things going on and they weren’t serious about this committee.”

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