Despite the Missouri legislature’s successful override of Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 509, the proposed budget for the Excelsior Springs School District’s 2014-15 fiscal year still includes increases for health benefits, retirement, food service, transportation fuel, utilities and a salary increase of two percent to the base plus career steps.
Deputy Superintendent David Lawrence presented the current draft of the budget to the Excelsior Springs Board of Education Monday night. The board will have the document to review before their June meeting, when they are expected to officially adopt it.
During a work session in April, Lawrence said he was proposing a salary increase but noted that SB 509, which had been approved but was expected to be vetoed by Nixon, would have an effect on school budgets—including that for ESSD.
The bill, intended to lower income tax rates over five years if the state’s general revenues exceed a certain amount, was predicted to have the possible effect of decreasing state revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars over time, and result in hundreds of thousands of dollars less being allocated to ESSD.
But Lawrence said on Monday night that the counter to that argument from state lawmakers was that the lower income tax rates would stimulate business—an effect that he said he hoped would come to pass because otherwise, ESSD and other school districts would see dwindling state revenues over time.
For now, however, the salary boost remains in the budget, and some of the other increases—such as a higher budget for school transportation—came after years of no increases.
In documentation included with the budget, Lawrence said the state’s foundation formula is projected to be funded at 98 percent, the highest level ever under the current formula. Locally, assessed valuation of personal property is expected to decline, but may be offset by modest increases in assessed valuation for new construction. In addition, the school district’s debt service levy will probably be unchanged for the third time in six years, due to refinancing of bonds at better interest rates.
Though the budget will be approved in June and take effect July 1 (the same day that Lawrence takes over as superintendent of schools from John Lacy, who is retiring), Lawrence said that as always there are some necessary numbers that won’t be available until after that time.
“This is a living, breathing document that will need to be amended several times throughout the year,” he explained, noting that the most significant amendment is likely to take place in the fall, after enrollment numbers are finalized.
In other business, Michelle Nebel updated the board on the One-to-World Initiative, the ESSD’s new project to put tablet computers in the hands of teachers and students. Nebel said staff members continue to do site visits in other school districts where the new technology is in place, and learn innovative techniques that are expected to transform the way teaching and learning takes place.
Teachers will receive the iPad tablets first (in fact, the board approved a lease with Apple Computer as part of their consent agenda Monday night), and three grades will be issued iPads next January, followed by three more grades the following January. Those first six grades are expected to be covered funds-wise without asking voters for any additional taxes; after those first phases, school officials will take stock of the program and decide how or whether to proceed.
Board member Troy Snelling noted that much of what he was hearing about One-to-World dealt specifically with teachers’ use, but he wondered if there were any ideas yet about how iPads would alter classroom learning.
Nebel, backed up by current high school principal Vincent Spallo, offered an example they saw in another school district. They said as a student gave a persuasive speech, audience members researched on their tablets and challenged his assumptions, creating a dialogue that enhanced the process beyond a simple speaker and listeners.
In a brief agenda item, the school board accepted a donation of two lots of land from Lawson Bank President Brick Porter for the Excelsior Springs Area Career Center’s use.
And during the recognition portion of the meeting, the Excelsior Springs High School Student Council was recognized with the Silver Honor Council Award from the Missouri Association of Student Councils, while Student Council President Natasha Martinez was honored with the same organization’s Certified Student Leader Award.
Social worker Kim Curtis was recognized as the Classified Employee of the Month, while retirees Marla Berry, Rhonda McQuerry, Diane Guill, Gail Bush, Steve Bierle, Marla Watkins, Sandra Pickett and Judy Harmon were announced as the year’s retirees and given gifts if they were present.
The board also recognized the school district’s teachers of the year—one from each of the district’s six schools—and also named outstanding educators in several different areas. Watch in an upcoming edition for the names and photos of these honorees.
By Eric Copeland • firstname.lastname@example.org