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Ava R-I Board Holds Special Budget Session

By Sue Curry Jones

The Ava R-1 School Board held a study session Tuesday evening and reviewed proposed budget numbers for the 2014-15 school year. The extra work session served as a step toward finalizing financial decisions for the upcoming year.

Board members present were: Pat Henry, Jeff Davis, Johnny Burkdoll, Randy Spurlock, Marsha Aborn and Dan Watson; administrators were: Dr. Brian Wilson, Dr. Nancy Lawler, and middle school Principal Mike Henry.

Board member Ron Wallace was absent.

As an introduction, Dr. Brian Wilson gave a brief overview of the budget, a document that provides an overall outline of the school mission statement and educational objectives for the upcoming school year. The write-up not only provides financial information but also includes facts about Ava R-1’s plans and goals, and a multi-year view of financials.

It cites recent changes to the local tax base and assessed valuation patterns, state formula projections, as well as projections of federal funding, expenses and personnel.

For the meeting Tuesday evening, however, board members focused on specific items of concern, with the intent to reduce deficit spending in the upcoming year. The proposed budget, which is slated for approval next month, had several items requiring approval or change.

Therefore, throughout the session, Dr. Wilson asked for the board’s consensus or direction on how to handle certain issues. In the budget segment of the meeting, directional guidelines were set by accord, as no votes transpired. Items discussed included the following:

• School Resource Officer –– Dr. Wilson advised that he had met with Ava Police Chief Reggie Johnson, and if agreement is reached by both parties, the resource officer would be a contracted service with the City of Ava.

In discussing the position, Wilson and Johnson agreed the officer should wear a uniform, as well as use a patrol car for transportation. According to Wilson, the proposed budget has $15,000 set aside for partnering with the City of Ava, an expenditure that covers half of the outlay for employing an officer on campus.

No opposition to the expense was expressed.

• Wilson advised the proposed budget includes a 2.3% “across the board” increase for classified staff; an entry also includes horizontal and vertical steps for incrementally increasing pay of the teaching staff –

From the discussion, the board endorsed adding steps, both vertical and horizontal, to the scale for the teaching staff; however, the overall view on keeping a 2.3% increase was more conservative, and instead, the board opted for a 2% increase. In the discussion, it was noted the school district will likely cover the uptake in insurance premiums for the ensuing year, and that premium difference which moves from a cost of $380 to $480, will benefit the employees bottom line as well.

• Ballot Issue – In the budget proposal, Dr. Wilson provided cost factors for placing another election bid before voters, and ask for a millage rate increase to the tax base. As discussed in the spring, if passed, the added revenue stream would be earmarked for campus security improvements.

In the discussion, it was noted the 2014-15 budget allotted $50,000 for capital improvements, and those funds could be used for updating a few security issues on campus. However, Dr. Wilson recommended retaining $35,000 of the $50,000 as a safety net for unforeseen essentials or unexpected glitches.

One of the safety issues vocalized by the board was a desire to change the main entry at the high school from the west facing entry now in use, to a double door entry on the south side of the building. In the discussion, it was noted the change would greatly improve security, as well as provide a safer venue for visitors and parking.

Concluding budget issues, Dr. Brian Wilson advised the budget is still a work in progress. He said the document is a “floating budget and not yet formed.” He noted the proposed and projected numbers are built on a 97% scale and a formula created by the Missouri legislature in Senate Bill 287. Under those guidelines, numbers can be adjusted accordingly, and percentages in state funding scaled back.

During open session, the board took action and voted to purchase a new reading program for elementary students. According to elementary Principal Clint Hall, the present reading program is over ten years old, and during this past term, while teachers were implementing new learning standards, the staff found they needed a more compatible and updated program to pair with common core curriculum. After an analysis of different applications, Hall advised a series called Journeys by Houghton Mifflin was the option preferred by elementary teachers, and this program was the series approved for purchase Tuesday evening. The new system, which costs $80,720.46, also offers free materials totaling $102,037.90.

Additional bids were submitted from Pearson for $103,012.78, and McGraw Hill, $74,747.06.

During closed session, the board hired two individuals for the 2014-15 school year –– Scott Payne, previously hired for physical education and high school boys basketball, was employed for the golf program. Melissa Payne was hired for Title 1 in middle school.

The school board meets again on Tuesday, June 17, for a regular monthly meeting. At the session, a final budget will be presented for approval. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.