Miller runs for Fairfield school board
Fairfield Community School District school board member Phil Miller has served on the board for about four months, and he’d like to stay on for a few more.
Miller, a local veterinarian, is one of two candidates on the ballot running for the special school board election April 1. The vacancy was created when board member Amy Miller announced in October she would move to Des Moines in December. The board voted to appoint Phil Miller in her place until the next special election. Steve Pumphrey is the other candidate on the ballot.
The winner of the April 1 special election will serve the remainder of Amy Miller’s four-year term until the regular school board election in September 2015.
Miller said the greatest challenge facing the school board is finding a new superintendent to replace outgoing superintendent Art Sathoff, who announced he would leave the district on June 30 to take a job as superintendent in Indianola.
“Art is a very talented and gifted leader,” Miller said. “He did a great job here, and we would love to have him stay for many years. Now it’s our job as a board to find a qualified replacement. The superintendent of the Fairfield school district is a very important job. He’s the leader of our school system, and our school system affects everyone in the community.”
Miller said the board is still deciding which search firm to hire to find a replacement. He hopes that will be completed next week.
“If all goes well, we might have a replacement in eight weeks,” he said. “The search company didn’t seem to think there was going to be a problem finding qualified applicants. Fairfield is a very good place to live and work, and to be a superintendent. There will undoubtedly be people who want to become our next superintendent.”
Miller said it’s possible the school board might have to hire an interim superintendent if the position cannot be filled in time, although he said that probably wouldn’t happen.
The other major challenge facing the school board is the $10 million addition and renovation planned for the high school. The bond issue for the project passed a year ago. The architect and general contractor presented a plan to the board that they thought would be within the $10 million budget. However, the bids have come back totaling $12 million.
“Should we try to negotiate some of those bids down?” asked Miller. “Should we do without some things. Those questions will need to be answered soon, because the project was supposed to be starting now.”
Miller said construction on the new shop building was supposed to begin at the end of this month, but now it might not start until June. He said he hopes the school can negotiate those bids to be lower. He said the school might allow companies that did not bid the first time to submit a bid.
He said the third major hurdle on the horizon is the contract negotiations with teachers.
“We’ve got wonderful teachers in the district,” he said. “They’re dedicated professionals, and we want to make sure we compensate them fairly. That said, the district will have less money to spend next year than last year, because our student enrollment number is going down.”
State aid to schools is tied to the number of students in the district.
“We can still have good buildings and good transportation,” he said. “Figuring out how to get it done fairly is the challenge.”
Miller said he is proud the district was able to reduce its tax asking by more than 2 percent in this year’s budget. He said the district is in very good financial shape, with an unspent balance of about $1 million.
“The goal of the board is to make sure that we do not go over our authorized spending,” he said. “The goal is to also have enough tax revenue to provide good education.”
Miller said he has enjoyed his four months on the board a great deal. He said whether he is elected or not, he hopes the public turns out to vote on April 1 in favor of the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy, which comes up for a vote once every decade. The levy is 67 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The current PPEL expires in FY15. The funds are used to purchase buses and technological equipment.