Financial issues came to the forefront at the March meeting of the Monett R-1 Board of Education as board members looked at health insurance and transportation costs.
District employees are looking at another rise in their cost for for health insurance. Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann said the consortium in which Monett participates with more than 90 other districts anticipates a rate increase of almost 7 percent for the coming year. Because of claims by the district, local costs will rise from 10 to 15 percent, depending on which plan the employee chooses.
"Our district has gotten the claims ratio down, but it's still over the target rate with a larger increase than the state," Jungmann said. "We're still working on health awareness and the ratio to bring it down to the level of other districts in the state."
Board members are considering covering $30 a month per employee, or about 10 percent of the lowest plan offered. The commitment would cost about $110,000, and employees would pick up the rest of the difference. Action is expected at the April board meeting.
The study on reducing transportation costs produced options but not a definitive answer. Jungmann said staggering bus routes to cut down on the number of buses in use would save the district $15,000 to $20,000 a year. The savings would not drop much from the $450,000 transportation budget.
The board decided to take one clear option and drop bus transportation for summer school, since state reimbursement has been dropped, and continue looking for other ways to reduce costs.
Gale Webb, the contractor providing bus service, submitted a three-year bid for service, calling for an increase of 3 percent for the 2011-12 school year and 2 percent for each of the two following years. Jungmann expected action on the proposal at the April 21 meeting.
Funding for the new safe room at Monett Elementary School through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reduced the debt load needed for the addition on the elementary campus. Jungmann received the green light from board members to proceed with refinancing the lease purchase on the high school, which is running out, and transferring the elementary school expense in its place.
Refinancing will save the district approximately $80,000, Jungmann said. Work will proceed to complete the deal with L.J. Hart and Company, the investment banking firm handling the district's bonds. Jungmann expected to have a new deal finalized in 30 to 60 days.
The board awarded two contracts on the elementary school project. Audio Acoustics, of Springfield, won the bid for installing wiring and speakers for the intercom system for $28,690. Jungmann said the old amplifier will stay in use, but the rest of the equipment will be replaced.
Ozark Mountain Installations was the only bidder to reinstall the playground on the north side of the campus at a cost of $44,155. Ozark Mountain disassembled the playground last spring.
Jungmann said the board has budgeted for furnishings and new equipment and would buy as much new furniture as possible over the next 60 days. A bid package was issued last week for the information technology and security systems. Bids will be opened on April 14.
Board members talked about summer work projects. Jungmann expected to have preliminary numbers for the April meeting on replacing lighting and flooring at the older part of Central Park Elementary, similar to work done at the South Building at Monett Middle School.
Principal David Steward reported the high school may switch from a seven-period day to eight-period day next year. The move will lengthen the school day by 10 minutes to accommodate one of the lunch periods.
The move will help control class sizes. Teachers can add another session to work in students who don't fit into seven full sessions. An additional session can be taught without hiring more staff.
Students also will have the option of picking up more credits. Steward said graduation expectations in required core credits are expected to rise. The move will serve as a proactive step for changes anticipated by the state.
The additional hour could provide flexibility, such as allowing students to take a "virtual" course and not be on campus during the first or eighth periods. Timing would also open an academic lab most hours of the day for struggling students. Since only seven hours of classes are required at the present time, junior and seniors with high grades could have a free period, or freshmen could use the hour as an advisory time.
The board will have its reorganizational meeting following the April 5 election at 5:30 p.m. on April 11. The next monthly board meeting will be held on April 21.