The Somerset Board of Education approved its 2017-2018 budget at $17,506,063.82, with a tax levy set at $5,445,345 at its Monday, Oct. 23 board meeting.
The biggest news to come out of the meeting was the announcement that the Nov. 20 board of education meeting would be the last for board member Robert Gunther, who has been on the board for the past 10 years and served as board president for several years. According to District Superintendent Dr. Mark Bezek, because the school board has yet to post its notice of election, Gunther's seat on the board — which has two years left on its three-year term — will be up for election at the next spring election. Until then, the board will need to find someone to fill Gunther's position.
If Gunther's resignation from the board had come after the board of education had posted the notice for election, they could have appointed a new board member who would have served out the rest of Gunther's term without going to election. Currently, the top three vote getters for the three seats that would normally be up for election this year will receive the three-year terms, while the fourth person would receive the rest of Gunther's two-year term.
The board heard a report from Bezek about 2017-2018 enrollment, which is down 41 students from last school year, and down three students from the start of the school year.
"There are several factors that are involved with that drop of 40 students from last year," Bezek said. "We just have to watch the trend line in pre-K and the 4-year-old program to see how many more students come in next year. We have a really small class at that level this year. One year doesn't make a trend, but those numbers are what we base our finances on."
The board also approved the spring 2018 Youth Options courses by a vote of 4-2, with Katie Thurmes and Marie Colbeth voting no. The pair voted no because they wanted to take more time to talk about the Youth Options courses during a work session meeting, like the board does with almost every other agenda item before voting on it at the regular meeting.
"I just want to make sure that we are getting the information that we need to make the decision and that the students don't have unrealistic expectations. Because these were all approved and I don't want them to be blindsided by the fact that at the end of the day they will not be taking those classes," Thurmes said. "I don't know where some of those classes came from, but I think there is some miscommunication happening somewhere."