The Monett R-1 Board of Education looked at school funding issues and plans for renovations at Monett Elementary School during the regular April board meeting.
Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann provided an update on the latest developments on the state budget. Governor Jay Nixon had executed an additional withholding on budgeted funds for transportation and the Parents as Teachers program that totals $8 million statewide. For Monett, the reduction means a cut of between $20,000 and $25,000.
On a more upbeat note, Jungmann was pleased to report Nixon had decided all the school districts in the state should share the cost of recent budget cuts. Southwest Missouri districts had pushed to have the "hold harmless" districts included in funding reductions.
"The board knows these are economic hard times," Jungmann said. "This is an economic issue, not a [Foundation] formula issue."
With two more months of state funding to come in the current school year, uncertainty remains about what state funding will come to Monett for the rest of the 2009-10 year. Jungmann said work by the state legislature on next school year's budget remains even more uncertain.
"We know the projected numbers," Jungmann said. "We feel the budget will again be a moving target. We hope to see state revenue at least stabilize."
Career Ladder disposition
One of the big outstanding questions for the current year has been the status of the Career Ladder program. Both the Missouri House and Senate put funding for the program back in the budget for the current year, making payments to teachers more likely. The measure had gone to a conference committee to work out final details.
"Both houses said the ability to fund Career Ladder in the future is not going to be likely," Jungmann said.
In Monett, the Career Ladder program pays for 60 hours of work beyond the regular classroom setting for 26 teachers in the first level of the program, 90 hours of work for 18 teachers in the second level and 120 hours of work for 62 teachers in the top level.
"There's a lot of work going on outside of the school day," Jungmann said. "Career Ladder attempts to compensate for that. We use Career Ladder to fund a lot of the tutoring program. We'll have to evaluate how that is funded.
"We hope we can continue to fund tutoring to as many students as possible," Jungmann said. "We may have to limit who is served or how much we can spend."
Pam Haldeman and Jim Stufflebeam from the architectural firm of Sapp Design Associates provided an update on plans for new construction and renovation at Monett Elementary School, following passage of the $4.5 million bond issue on April 6. Bids have been released. A bid opening has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on May 25.
"There's a lot of interest in the project," Jungmann said. "Contractors know the project is in the works. We expect high participation from general contractors. Many have already contacted the architect expressing interest before bids went out."
Jungmann said the board heard concern from patrons about starting a construction project at the same time the district is facing budget constraints. The superintendent stressed the construction project is funded by a bond issue, a separate funding stream from general services and not dependent on action taken by the state legislature.
"We hope to save money in more efficient uses of our operations dollars," Jungmann said. "We want to continue to educate people as we move forward in hard times."
A resolution was passed giving Jungmann permission to apply for Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB) with low to zero percent interest. Jungmann will seek $500,000 to $750,000 in QZAB bonds reserved for renovation work. Additional Qualified School Construction Bonds, which also have low or no interest attached, have already been secured, he said.
All told, Jungmann hopes to get $2 million to $3 million in zero-to-low interest bonds to fund Monett's project.
"That will represent significant savings to the district," the superintendent added.
Summer school directors Jeff Wilcox and Sarah Garner presented the board with two plans for summer school. One offered much of what the district has done in recent years. The second was reduced, providing service only to high needs students in critical areas.
"Some districts have already decided not to have summer school," Jungmann said. "We have not. We think there will be some funding."
Some services may be offered if students will pay for it and a sufficient number express interest.
Building administrators reported standardized tests in the Missouri Achievement Program (MAP) had been completed. Principals were very pleased with the level of participation and focus shown by the students, Jungmann reported. He expected the district would see "another great set of results in the fall."
Student handbooks were distributed for review for the coming year. Only limited changes were proposed. A major change will come from the board's decision to not print the handbook for every student in the coming school year. Instead the handbook will be placed in its entirety on-line. Some printed copies will be available upon request.
Every five years the district seeks bids for its banking services. Bids were opened at the meeting and the contract was again awarded to UMB Bank. U.S. Bank also bid for the district's business.