Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann reported Governor Jay Nixon had again reduced the state budget, this time cutting the total by $125 million. The drop of $4 million from the school transportation budget will reduce funds coming to Monett by $5,000 to $10,000 in addition to the $15 million cut from transportation earlier.
"The big unknown is the supplemental budget going through the House and Senate that's funding the current year," Jungmann said. "The bill is $43 million short of funding the Foundation Formula. How that shortfall is to be shared is a big question."
The legislature could choose to share the shortfall equally between districts on a per-pupil basis, but that approach is not even being discussed, Jungmann continued. Instead, it appears the districts considered "hold harmless" will see no reduction in state funding at all, leaving the rest of the districts to absorb the shortfall.
Taking the "hold harmless" districts out of the equation is essentially the inequity that prompted the lawsuit against the state by the Committee for Educational Equality, a coalition of school districts that included Monett. The suit prompted the 2005 revision of the school funding system, which the Missouri Supreme Court upheld.
"An amendment in the Missouri House to make [sharing the shortfall] 2 percent across the board was defeated 83-73," Jungmann said. "The bill will probably go to the Senate. We'll see what they do."
Another 2 percent reduction in funding would translate into the Monett district receiving $160,000 less than was promised at the beginning of the year, Jungmann said. The amount will increase if the "hold harmless" districts do not participate.
Conservative budgeting should leave the R-1 district in a manageable position for the rest of the current school year, Jungmann said. As for next year, Jungmann said Nixon's original budget anticipated $500 million in revenue beyond what is expected.
Summer school in jeopardy
One potential ramification of the income shortfall presently under discussion would be the elimination of summer school, which has a $300,000 budget in Monett.
"There's no way we can run our current summer school without state funding," Jungmann said. "We could run a limited summer school, based on high needs students. The cost would probably be around $50,000. We're in the process of figuring out what that would look like."
Monett's summer school planners are preparing two plans: one with and one without state funds. By the beginning of May the state lawmakers will determine which direction the issue will go.
Race to the Top
In the middle of discussions about state funding shortfalls, Jungmann reported Missouri had not been accepted as a finalist in the new "Race for the Top" federal program. Only a handful of the 15 finalists out of 40 states will advance for consideration to receive the first round of grants in the new program.
Around $2 billion would be awarded in the first round of grants that will be given out in the first week of April. Jungmann said Missouri would reapply by June 1 for a shot at the remaining $2.3 billion in grants that will be awarded in the fall.
Food service future
Board members had sought bids for having a private firm run the district's food service program. Opaa, the Chesterfield-based company that has contracts with Aurora and Verona school districts among others, was the only bidder.
Jungmann provided information on an internal budget reduction to cut the R-1 food service programs $75,000 annual loss. Board members took both plans for review and will likely take action at the April meeting.
The board voted to increase tuition for students attending SWACC next year by $200, for a total of $2,095. The hike is the second consecutive annual increase that sending schools agreed to pay. Additional funds will keep the Monett district from losing money in running SWACC, Jungmann said.
Good news about SWACC came from Director Tyler Laney. Documentation has arrived that shows candidacy for accreditation under the North Central Accreditation program has been accepted. Candidacy will allow the district to start programs such as awarding federal Pell grants.
"The good news is we're working on the process to make Pell grants available," Jungmann said. "If federal funds fall short and there is no money, Pell grants may not prove as beneficial to the community as we hoped. We're keeping our fingers crossed that Pell grants will remain a viable source for those who need support."