Supplemental bill will not increase funding for schools

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Although Missouri legislators have approved over $326 in federal monies for public schools, the approved legislation will not increase the amount of funding districts receive this year or next.

"It is very important that legislators approved Bill 15, which provided the opportunity for jobs bill money to be sent to school districts, but this money will actually fill the gaps in state funding, not provide additional money," said Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent.

On May 2, Governor Jay Nixon signed House Bill 15, which will provide $189.7 million in federal funding to school districts across the state. Last week, legislators also approved House Bill 18, which includes $137 million in funding for school districts.

Bill 15, which is known by school administrators as the supplemental bill, should have provided Missouri school districts with an additional $190 million in revenue. That funding was to be allocated for Title I or distributed through the school funding formula, which is currently funded at 96.5 percent.

"In February or March, we learned that the supplemental bill would not provide any additional money, because the federal government had okayed it to be used as a supplant," said Asbill. "This allows state legislators to take out state money and put in federal dollars.

"We will still be at 96.5 percent funding," said Asbill. "The money was approved, but it will really just fill the void where the state money will be reduced this year."

The Cassville R-4 School District will receive $402,831 through the supplemental bill. State funding will be reduced by the same amount.

"Next year, we are looking at level funding again," said Asbill. "That does not mean without cuts though."

Over the last three years, districts have faced decreased funding and increased costs. Districts have been most heavily impacted in the area of transportation funding.

In 2009, the Cassville School District received $321,000 in transportation funding. That amount dropped to $316,621 in 2010. Although transportation funding was expected to be $310,000 this year, Cassville has only received around $196,000 for transportation.

"That is $100,000 less in funding just in transportation" said Asbill. "For the third year in a row, we have received the same number of allocations in school funding, but our expenses have not stayed the same. For instance, diesel has not stayed the same over the last three years."

Cassville has also seen a large decrease in the amount of funding available for its Parents as Teachers (PAT) program. In 2009, Cassville received $56,000 for the program, and last year, the district received $38,000 for PAT. This year, only $23,000 was distributed to the district for the program.

"Level funding has a nice sound to it, which everyone can feel good about," said Asbill, "but it doesn't mean funding has gone up. We are at 96.5 percent this year, but we are expecting to be at 94 percent next year. That is an additional 6 percent loss, which is around $380,000 for the Cassville School District just next year."

R-4 administrators are already making adjustments in preparation for the continued reduction in school funding.

"We had a first grade teacher resign at the beginning of the school year, and we reallocated those students to the other six teachers," said Asbill. "Next year, we will only have six classes at the kindergarten, first and second grade levels.

"Right now enrollment numbers accommodate that," said Asbill. "We would like to have 17 students in each classroom, but having 20 to 21 students per class is not unachievable. If we begin to have 24, 25 or 26 students in a class, we will need to look at adding back another teacher."

The district also shifted custodial duties among current employees instead of replacing a staff member who resigned in December of last year.

"With the retirements we have this year, we will be looking at how to replace those individuals or if we need to replace them," said Asbill. "We could choose to have shared positions between two buildings rather than hire another new employee."

When retiring staff members are replaced, the district receives a fiscal savings by hiring a new employee at a starting salary level, said Asbill.

"We are using the same approach to supply and equipment purchasing," said Asbill. "If we budget $1,000 for supplies or equipment, we are asking our staff members to only spend $800. We have reduced spending a lot by just using more accountability. These minor changes add up to significant savings."

According to Asbill, the district is also evaluating and closely monitoring capital project expenditures.

"When you have such a large investment in buildings, you need to maintain them," said Asbill. "This year, we have a roof project and a track renovation project scheduled. The track is six years past due on a renovation."

District officials wanted to complete a second roof project this year but decided that funding was not available for the project. Only the middle school roofing project will be completed during 2011.

"We are trying to maintain our capital project plan without expanding the number of projects," said Asbill. "We are reviewing our list of projects and deciding what is a priority and what we can hold for another year."

Over the next few months, the Cassville School Board will be evaluating health insurance premiums and salary increases. The district is facing a 7.5 percent increase in health insurance premiums.

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