M-U BOE discusses new student wellness funding

By Matt Clevenger

For Miami Valley Today

WEST MILTON — The Milton-Union Board of Education is looking at ways to spend almost $700,000 in new state funding that should become available in 2020 and 2021.

“We’re slated to receive about $282,000 the first year,” district treasurer Kay Altenburger told the board during their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Aug. 26. “That’s an estimate; it depends on the number of students in poverty under the age of 18 in your district. The second year we’re slated to receive $409,000, but again that’s an estimate.”

The new funding is the result of recent state-level moves to promote student health and wellness services.

“There’s a big push to provide wrap-around services to students,” Altenburger said. “Those funds are restricted funds and can only be spent on certain things like mental health, physical health; those wrap-around services.”

“We’re learning more about the rules on what you can use it for,” she said. “The list is mental health services, services for homeless youth, services for child welfare-involved youth, community liaisons, physical health services, mentoring programs, family engagement support services.”

The district currently spends approximately $50-70,000 per year on those types of services for students. The additional funding could be used to start new programs for students or pay salaries and benefits for new employees, like additional school councilors.

“I think that we could have another person in the district, and keep that person busy with more of an open-door policy,” district superintendent Brad Ritchey said. “There are services that we get now through the educational service center in Troy that would apply, like a social worker in the elementary, for example. We can shift the money that we pay for them back into the general fund and use these dollars for that.”

“We’re getting new information every day about exactly how we can spend it,” Altenburger said. “We will identify what we are already doing, then an administrative team will look for opportunities for services that we need.”

“The other thing we’re going to look at is sustainability,” she said. “We don’t want to start a program and have this money for two years, and then not be able to sustain it. So we have a little bit of work to do on how to spend that money.”

In other business, board members also approved a new contract between the BOE and the Milton-Union Education Association. The new contract will be effective until June 30, 2022.

Board members also approved five-year depository agreements with First Financial Bank of Troy, effective until Feb. 28, 2024, and heard an update on the installation of a new school scoreboard, which was supposed to be finished last month.

“They should be here Friday and have it put up Saturday,” district operations manager Dan Baisden told the board. “They were supposed to have been here a month ago.”

“This company’s really good, and have really low prices on their scoreboards,” Baisden said. “They got bombarded with work.”

In the meantime, the old scoreboard is still technically functional.

“It works,” Baisden said, “but there are some makeshift light bulbs and things. It’s still chugging along, but it will be good to see it go.”

The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16. Board members are also planning a joint meeting with the Union Township trustees, which will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26 at the Union Township building.