ST. JOHN — Keeping up with, or ahead of, technology in the classrooms is an ongoing, expensive proposition, which is why the Lake Central School Board voted to take advantage of a state loan program to buy about $939,000 worth of new equipment.
Rob James, business services director, said the funding is made available every six months from the Common School Fund Educational Technology Program. The state Legislature sets money aside and school districts apply for the loans. Although there is no guarantee the application will be accepted, James said Lake Central has gotten its requests approved every six months since he’s been in office beginning in 2010.
The 1-percent interest loan is paid back over a five-year period. For Lake Central this means that at the same time each new loan is approved, an old one is being paid off. So there is no increase in cost to taxpayers.
Each school district is eligible to receive $100 per student as determined by the enrollment at the end of September. James said he won’t know the final number for a couple of weeks, but he plans to ask for the maximum, which would be $939,000 based on the current count.
The money is used to buy SMART boards, Chromebook carts, iPad carts and replace old desktop computers.
“We believe the district should make every effort to bring additional dollars in to upgrade the technology in our buildings,” he said.
Board President Janice Malchow said during Monday's meeting, “This program has helped the district tremendously over the years.”
The board unanimously approved the request to seek the loan.
The board also held a public hearing on the 2018 budget, which calls for spending almost $60 million in the general fund to cover salaries, benefits, utilities, supplies and general operating costs along with a total of $21 million to repay the 2012 bond issue and other borrowing, about $7.5 million in capital projects for the upkeep and upgrading of the buildings, about $5.5 million for the cost of transportation and about $1 million for replacement of older buses.
The general fund is up about $2 million, which James said during a presentation on the budget at the Sept. 5 meeting reflects a slight increase in the state funding provided to operate the schools. He estimated the increase will be $50 or $60 per student, but he said the per pupil amount allocated to Lake Central is among the lowest in the state and the amount of property taxes district residents and businesses pay is among the lowest in the area.
During the hearing, none of the few people who attended the meeting spoke, and the budget will be up for final adoption at the Oct. 9 board meeting.