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Jackson R-2 board approves budget

The Jackson R-2 School Board approved the budget for the 2024-2025 school year, with $75,509,274 in budgeted expenditures and $72,962,146 in anticipated income for the district.

The district is expected to begin its fiscal year on July 1 with a total balance of $28,965,248 and end next school year with a balance of $26,418,119.

Superintendent Scott Smith said the district anticipates revenue staying flat compared to last school year, but it may receive more state and local funds than budgeted.

“We have been very conservative on our revenues, so we feel like that is something we are not nervous about,” Superintendent Scott Smith said. “We think state revenue will hopefully continue to come in this year, and we will be okay.”

Smith said the projected deficit next year is partially due to capital projects being carried over from the 2023-2024 budget.

$1,361,508 of capital projects budgeted last year will be carried over into next year’s budget – including a new roof at South Elementary School costing $1.18 million and $175,000 in safety projects covered by a grant.

Capital improvement projects added to the 2024-2025 budget include $567,000 to upgrade the HVAC system at East Elementary School, $1.1 million on school buses and $1.75 million for a new roof at Jackson Middle School.

The budget included around $2 million in spending cuts, including the closure of Gordonville and Millersville Elementary School and the elimination of several certified and classified staff positions.

Smith said the district’s expenditures for salaries and benefits increased by less than one percent despite the board approving a 3% cost of living raise for all staff members last month. “The cuts that were made is what saved us,” he said.

The district is expected to spend $374,752 more on salaries and benefits next school year, $483,825 more on utilities and $213,788 more on purchase services.

Smith said the district made several cuts in purchase services, such as decreasing the professional development budget, but the professional services budget also includes an increase in property insurance rates.

“Last year, we saw a 30% increase in our property insurance, and we’ve already been notified by our carrier to anticipate another increase very similar to last year,” Smith said.

The district is also budgeted to spend $211,854 less on supplies during the 2024-2025 school year compared to the 2023-2024 school year.

Smith said the middle school roof replacement will most likely not be finished before July 1, 2025, but needs to be in this year’s budget to start the bidding process for the project in early 2025.

In other action:

• The board approved a proposal from EGL Association to design a new strategic plan for the district. The district will be charged up to $32,140, with a final plan expected to be completed in November. Smith said the district is held accountable by the state to make sure its strategic planning goals align with district actions.

“Our current CSIP was put into place two years ago, but a lot of it hinged upon passing propositions I, N or T,” Smith said. With those not passing, we feel like it’s time to go back and get more community input.”

The district reached out to four companies for the project, with EGL providing the best rate. Smith said the previous strategic planning process was done by district administrators to save money, but they advised using an external company at this time.

“We feel like we’re at a point where it needs to be an outside agency to try and get people to speak freely,” he said.

• The board approved new district policies, replacing the policies created by the Missouri School Board Association. The new policies were created by EdCounsel, which has provided the district’s legal services for the past nine years.

The board approved the switch in August 2023, giving EdCounsel almost a year to create the new policies. The board approved a five-year agreement with the company last year for policy maintenance and attorney services.

Smith said the new policies better reflect the district’s current practices and are easily understood. The new policies are effective July 1.

• The board approved a new employee handbook created by EdCounsel. The handbook includes information from the new policies approved by the board including a few changes from previous practices.

The district is changing its employee leave policy, combining personal and sick days. Employees previously received four personal days and six sick days. Starting next year, their leave will be combined, but would have to fill out an extended leave form if they need to use three or more consecutive PTO days.

Teachers will receive $75 at the end of the school year for every PTO day not used. Non-certified staff will receive $50 per unused PTO day. In addition, those unused PTO days will be rolled over to the next school year. The number of PTO days that can be banked will remain at 90 days for current employees, but will be 60 days for new employees.

Smith said the new policy will allow teachers to receive some extra money and for the district to save on the cost of substitute teachers. He said other districts with similar policies have seen it encourage teachers to use longer breaks built into the calendar for vacations and substitute rates have gone down. “We feel like this is a win-win for both the district and teachers,” he said.

The handbook also adds penalties if staff members leave before their contracts are ended. Smith said the change would not go into effect until contracts for the 2025-2026 school year are signed.

Departing staff members who leave between signing a contract and June 1 will owe $500, those who leave between June 2 and July 1 will owe $2,000, those who leave between July 2 and the first day of school will owe $3,000 and those who leave during the school year will owe $5,000.

Smith said the penalties will help the district cover the costs related to recruiting and filling the vacant position. The school board will have the ability to waive the penalties in the event of extenuating circumstances.

The new handbook also lists what can now be included in employee email signatures. Signatures can only include the approved district logo, the employee’s name, the employee’s position, phone numbers, fax numbers, an address and the district’s confidentiality statement.

• The board voted to further discuss the cooperative agreements with Immaculate Conception Catholic School and St. Paul Lutheran School, which allowed junior high students at the two schools to participate in sports that aren’t offered at their schools at Jackson Junior High School.

The board voted to end the cooperative agreements with IC and St. Paul during last month’s school board meeting. The board only renewed the cooperative agreement with Nell Holcomb School, since it is a public school and those students have the option to go to Jackson High School.

Amy Moore spoke to the board about the cooperative agreement with Immaculate Conception. Her son participated in Jackson sports as a seventh grader and would participate as an eighth grader if the cooperative agreement was renewed.

“Through participating in the co-op, I see kids who have strengthened their commitment to Jackson, with my own son wearing his Jackson Indian shirt to IC school picture day,” Moore said. “He also looks forward to running through the tunnel with his future high school team.”

Moore added that her family had already rearranged their summer schedule for her son to attend the junior high’s summer football camp and her older son already attends Jackson High School.

Athletic Director John Martin said St. Paul had asked to be let out of the cooperative agreement last year to participate in a Lutheran sporting event, but it was past the point where changes could be made with the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

St. Paul had several students who were interested in participating in Jackson sports next year, but no St. Paul student played for Jackson Junior High School during the 2023-2024 school year.

The board asked district administrators to give the board various options related to the cooperative agreements for next year during the July school board meeting.

• The board approved bus purchase proposal specification for 83-passenger transit school buses and 77-passenger conventional school buses. Assistant Superintendent Keenan Kinder said the district hopes to purchase four buses. Bids will be due on July 8.

The board also approved the scrapping of four of the district’s school buses that are immobile or underpowered to be used for training by local fire departments. Kinder said district staff will attend the training to learn more about bus safety. The four buses that are to be scrapped are between 19 and 24 years old.

• The board approved several transportation supply bids for the upcoming school year, including a gasoline and diesel fuel bid from Co-Op Service Center and a tire bid from Purcell Tire. The board also approved a bid from Morgan Distributing to provide oil, grease, transmission fluid and antifreeze.

• The Jackson High School girls swim team was recognized for competing at the state level. Emma Morris, Ava Walters, Audrey Tuschhoff and Lynlee LaValle were recognized by the board for their efforts on the team.

• Jackson Middle Level Future Business Leaders of America members presented to the board about their growth over the past year. The club went from 35 paid members during the 2022-2023 school year to 104 paid members during the 2023-2024 school year. 25 members are attending the national conference and competition in Orlando, Florida.

The group received $1,000 from the Jackson R-2 School District Foundation to help fund their trip to Orlando.

• The board approved extended school year bus routes. Five buses are used during the 16-day extended school year this summer for K-12 students with disabilities, and three buses are used for the early childhood extended school year program.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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