By Johannes Brann

In the world of Missouri school boards, June is the month to adopt and submit to the state a final total of actual receipts and expenditures from the past year and a budget for the coming year.

With board members David Bruce, Heather Brown, Connie Gerster, Scott Pritchett and Heath Brown, as well as Superintendent Chris Holcomb and financial consultant, Dr. James Cummins on hand, the board began its meeting by carefully reviewing all bills and on a 5-0 vote, authorized payment.

“I asked Dr. Cummins to be here to help explain the budgets and answer any questions. He came on board as a consultant to our district shortly after the first of this year,” said Holcomb.

In response, Dr. Cummins said, “I commend your superintendent for reaching out to secure several resources as a way to get all your accounts properly coded to state requirements and to get on top of your district’s finances. This is particularly important because for the first time in the history of your district, you have, what is for your sized district, significant long-term debt.”

Actual revenues for the past year totaled $3.54 million, while expenditures amounted to $3.04 million.

Cummins added, “You ended the year with a very healthy 34 percent reserve which translates into $1.11 million.

Asked Heather Brown, Is that a good amount for a district our size?”

Responded Cummins, “Holding onto a lot of money means you’re not paying your teachers or spending on classroom needs or maintenance as you could. Now smaller districts such as your own are probably best served having more in reserve, and with your debt, you’re probably where you need to be.”

A motion to approve the final budget for the 2022-2023 school year was approved on a 5-0 vote.

Turning to the budget for the coming year, Cummins interjected, “After speaking with Mr. Holcomb, if it is OK with you, he’ll present a quarterly review of the budget and you can make any needed adjustments,” said Cummins.

He explained that the first payday in September provides useful gauge of what payroll costs are likely to be. Since payroll costs are by far, the largest portion of a school district’s budget, that will give provide the first important indicator as to whether the budget needs to be adjusted. The quarterly report or budget adjustment would come at the October or November board meeting.

“This budget projects total revenue at $3.07 million which is down just over $400,000 because this year we are not receiving the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief), Covid-19 federal funds,” said Holcomb.

The expenditures are projected at $3.13 million, slightly up from the $3.04 of the past year. The reserve is projected at 33 percent.

The superintendent added, “The district’s total outstanding debt is $1.22 million and our payments for the coming year will total $156,217.”

Then changing from a matter-of-fact to a more serious tone, Holcomb looked intently around the table and said, “I am trying to position our district so that within five years, we only have one loan left. Right now we are maxed out; should anything happen not covered by insurance, we’ve run out of credit.”

That one remaining debt is for the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) systems which were installed this past school year at both buildings.

The heads of several board members were clearly nodding at this point and Heather Brown added, “Thank you, Mr. Holcomb; this is really important.”

The motion to adopt the proposed fiscal year 2024 budget was approved on a vote of 5-0.

Looking at food service prices for the coming school year, Holcomb spoke of how inflation at the grocery store has also hit schools.

“The state strongly suggests raising prices ten cents across the board, meaning at the elementary as well as the high school and that includes breakfast and lunch,” said Holcomb. This too was approved by a motion which received a 5-0 vote.

Next on the agenda was the rate of pay for those driving a bus or van for a school activity. Board member Bruce asked what other districts are doing and was told it had gone up from $12.00 to $14.00 and $15.00 per hour. Holcomb proposed a flat rate of $14.00. With a vote of 5-0, the motion to adopt that rate was approved.

Just as a district has to submit a final actual listing of receipts and expenditures, so it must submit a final transportation plan. Since the number of and design of routes did not change from the start of the year, by a 5-0 vote, the board approved a motion to send in the same plan and note it did not change.

Again by a 5-0 vote, the board adopted a motion to purchase a 2022 ten-passenger van with very low-mileage which comes with a 4-year bumper-to-bumper warranty and five free oil changes, for the sum of $30,000.

“And it’s charcoal in color, so it’s already in a school color,” added Holcomb.

In his report, the superintendent encouraged the board to look at the newly coated gym floor. He intends to form a not-for-profit foundation for the district so that large donations and bequests can be properly handled.

Holcomb lauded current high school secretary, Janice Graves, who will oversee food service beginning July 1. Graves obtained a grant of $13,247 for food and is working on a $125,000 federal grant as well.