Cassville School District starts new projects plan

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

5-year cycles include 1:1 purchases, buses

A new cycle of five-year capital project plans are now underway at the Cassville school district.

According to Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent, a list of requested items is collected from teachers, staff, and various departments. Those items can include a new oven for food service, roof repair for various buildings, or supplies for classrooms.

"There are various things to consider and budget for," said Asbill. "Some are the same every year like repairs or maintenance."

The list is broken down into priorities and what can be afforded, Asbill said. Then it is broken down into five-year plans, which cover the next 20 years.

"If any item requires bidding we go through that process, too," Asbill said. "Once approved, we come back to it annually, but pieces typically come up monthly."

Two Cassville school board representatives, Becky Henningson and David Haddock, are appointed to represent the board on the capital projects committee. When a budgetary item needs to be addressed or a decision made, a meeting is set up with the representatives.

"We had one million dollars worth of requests this year," Asbill said. "Just because it's on the list doesn't mean it gets funded, it still has to go through the board."

Like any plan or budget, adjustments must sometimes be made to accommodate various changes and circumstances.

"As enrollment increases, we find we must move some things from year five to year two and adjust from there," Asbill said.

With a comprehensive list of expenditures from general maintenance, food, supplies, and transportation, Asbill said operating a school is no different from operating a home except you have a very large home, and employees in that home. And, unlike most households, the Cassville school district travels about 1,700 miles a day on buses, according to Asbill.

"We have so many activities and things going on at any given time," Asbill said.

So, the school decided the best course of action to save money on expensive repairs and maintenance, and consequently make the best use of taxpayer dollars, was to do lease-purchase agreements for buses. In the coming year, Cassville plans to spend $150,000 on the lease purchase of five new buses.

There are also adjustments to be made when a ticket item does not pass the first time, like a bond initiative, or when items are dependent on grant funds, such as the FEMA One project. One example of budgeting is playground equipment.

"We don't have to buy equipment all at once so we'll add some in year one and year two," Asbill said. "We're starting a new cycle of capital projects, but due to changes and adjustments, year five is more like wish list items that we hope to be able to work into the budget. When we're dealing with taxpayers dollars and state and federal funding, our plan must be well-organized and focused on what we can afford and timing."

One project still in process is the 1:1 initiative, which goal was to provide each student with Google Chromebooks. The device is similar to a laptop but operates more like a tablet.

Phase I was the initial purchase of the Chromebooks, 150 each for the high school and middle school, at cost $155,000, plus $15,000 for charging carts.

Phase II included 345 new devices for the high school, 325 for the middle school and 180 for the intermediate school. The district spent $244,525, but saved about $125,000 by entering the 3-year lease two months early.

Phase III, which is set for completion this fall, will finish supplying the devices for grades 6-12 so each will have a home room device. There is $100,000 budgeted for the purchase, and Asbill said the phase is still being evaluated, and should bring anywhere from 300-500 new devices. Technology and administrative teams are working to get quotes from different vendors.

"We don't need a lab anymore because the classroom becomes a lab," Asbill said. "The devices have a three year life."

Budget cuts are always a consideration and can create challenges for items on the list.

"When faced with budget cuts, we try to weigh that priority level and see how much we can take on," Asbill said. "That's when some things shift. By June, we want to have a game plan of where we're headed."

While there are many expenditures on the list, Asbill says the district depends on feedback from the teachers, principals and staff to decide what gets priority.

"We ask them how important these items are and rely on their input."

"Basically, we are closing the books from the last 20 years and beginning the first five years of the next 20," Asbill said. "This is not our money, it is our patrons' money and the board has done a very good job with it. It's always been respectful and mindful of our communities' dollars and priorities."

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