School board discusses deficit spending

By Chad Koenen


After two previous referendums were rejected by school district voters in November and again in May, the Henning School District will proceed with an expansive Indoor Air Quality project on its own. 

During a special work session and school board meeting on June 8, the Henning School Board approved proceeding with an estimated $6.76 million Indoor Air Quality project that will replace its aging HVAC system. The project was part of an approximately $27 million two-part referendum that were recently rejected by school district voters. 

As part of the project, the HVAC system in the school will be replaced to provide temperature control, ventilation, energy efficiency and dehumidification for elementary classrooms, the 1959 gym and the wood shop. The project will also provide dehumidification, temperature control and energy efficiency for the 1995 addition. 

The shop area would not receive dehumidification as part of the project. 

In order to fund the project the district will tap into $600,000 of ESSERS funding, which came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The remaining balance being levied through a tax to school district property owners. 

Construction is expected to take place beginning at the end of May 2024 through September 10, 2024. 

In addition to replacing the HVAC system, the school board discussed things like installing a new parking lot where an old garage is located near the bus garage. The school board could use a special tax abatement to install the new parking lot, which school superintendent Melissa Sparks said would provide some much needed parking options, since the property is located so close to the front doors of the school. 

The work session on June 8 also provided the school board an opportunity to discuss its 2023-24 budget. The budget will be formally approved this week, but Sparks said the revenues are expected to increase a bit, while expenses will remain similar to what they have been in the past. 

Following the meeting, Sparks said the school district may deficit spend in 2023-24 as expenses will likely exceed revenues. 

While the school district is still awaiting its final expenses to come in, Sparks said it is likely the school district will deficit spend in the fiscal year 2022-23. 

In January, the school district received its 2021-22 audit, which showed that the school district deficit spent $547,038. That deficit spending brought the school district below its goal of maintaining a 25 percent unassigned fund balance for the first time in at least 10 years. 

Sparks said as part of the new 2023-24 school budget, the district will no longer have three teachers with an overload assignment, and will be reducing the equivalent of two elementary staff positions.