The Purdy R-2 Board of Education spent most of its August meeting exploring funding options after determining the district had a cash flow problem.
Board members passed the tax levy for the coming year with no changes. The operating fund remains at $2.75 per $100 of assessed property, and the debt service levy, which can be raised as high as 96 cents, stayed at 69 cents.
Despite the soft economy, property values in the Purdy district grew. Real estate values rose by $145,000. Commercial property values were up by nearly $200,000 while personal property inched up by almost $30,000.
Superintendent Jerry Lingo said property values have continued to rise at about the same pace each year. He indicated the assessment changes would bring the district $8,233.58 from new construction and improvements and $1,852.42 from reassessment.
The district's rate of growth at about 1.5 percent, however, was not keeping pace with predictions made when bonds were sold in 2007. L.J. Hart and Company, the investment banking firm that set up the bond financing, had counted on the district growing at about 2.5 percent a year, the average rate over the past five years.
Income to pay off the bonds has not kept pace. The district had been taking an average of $12,676 out of its general fund to pay the difference, tapping into money provided by the state in the Classroom Trust Fund (CTF). During the 2010-11 year, district income fell $40,000 short of the amount needed.
Representatives from L.J. Hart and from Crews and Associates made presentations for two hours at the meeting on how to refinance the district's $1,725,000 in bonds that can be recalled on March 1, 2012.
L.J. Hart President Larry Hart, Vice President Allan Crader and analyst Kelly Liermann proposed several options based on continued growth of 1.5 percent in assessed valuation per year. Their middle course strategy projected potential savings of $133,425.
For Crews and Associates, the firm that initially pointed out the bond payment problem to the district, Vice President Howard Neeley and director Matt DeLeo proposed saving the district $189,000 while anticipating no growth in assessed valuation.
Both firms gave the district a choice of acting now to lock in current interest rates or waiting until December and avoiding $14,000 in penalties for buying back bonds before they were available. Board members decided a spike in interest rates could wipe out their potential savings, so they preferred to act as soon as possible.
Board President Randy Henderson agreed to ask both firms for a one-page proposal outlining comparable terms. A special meeting will be called to select a refinancing plan.
Preparations for school
Elementary Principal Jeff Swadley said he had 246 students enrolled before school started, an increase of four over the number that ended last school year. He had 43 new kindergarten pupils after projecting as many as 55. Swadley said he was counting on the numbers growing.
Middle School Principal Janet Boys planned to start school with 195 students. Unofficially six students appear to have left while nine students have been added. Attendance had been good during the fifth and sixth grade orientation on Aug. 11.
High School Principal Bob Vice anticipated 220 to 230 students for the beginning of school, the same as last year.
Handbooks were approved with few revisions. Swadley said the only changes in the bus handbook included David Henry as the driver on route #3, replacing Barbara Gardner, who resigned. Gerald Blakley was added as a crossing guard.
Board members agreed to keep the number of bus routes at six. Lingo said ridership had been better after one bus was dropped last year.
Board members accepted the resignation of Tifanni Carpenter as a custodian. Interviews for a replacement were continuing, Lingo said.
Boys was once again named the district's representative for handling federal programs.
The board appointed Tracy Tate to continue as its representative on the Sick Day Pool Committee. Boys said with two additional teachers participating, the pool should have at least 179 days available in the coming year. Nineteen days were used by two people last year.
Handbooks for the different grade levels were approved. Swadley said he dropped the practices of in-school suspension and Saturday school, taking them out of the handbook.
Boys said board policy allows isolation of students for disciplinary purposes, leaving the possibility open. She said she does not have an in-school suspension teacher assigned, so that if such action is necessary, she supervises herself.
The only change Boys made in the middle school handbook was over the cell phone policy, giving one warning before a detention if a cell phone is out or in use during school. Most problems come from students forgetting to turn their phones off, she said.
The only major addition in the high school handbook, Vice said, was the dual credit policy approved by the board last spring.
A revised school calendar was distributed. Swadley announced open house for the elementary school will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 1. Grandparents Day would be 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 16.
The next monthly board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 in the superintendent's office.