Budget worries weigh on Bronaugh school district

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BRONAUGH -- An array of financial complications has the Bronaugh School Board doing a balancing act with the proposed 2011-'12 budget it will consider at 6:30 p.m., June 13.

Members aren't considering a bump in the R-7 District's tax rate of 3.7487 cents per $100 valuation, but they might be wise to hike lunch tickets from $1.75 to $2 for seventh through 12th graders and $1.50 to $1.75 in elementary school, said Superintendent Patricia Phillips.

Phillips said the retirements of three teachers with 30 years' service each and of Librarian Joyce Coonrod, who checked out books for 39 years, will help cut expenses from this year's $2.2 million to $2.1 million next year.

She said a five-year, $650,000 21st Century Grant from the U.S. Department of Education will expire next year after financing an extra hour of school in the mornings and two to three hours in the afternoons for some 50 of the district's 266 students.

Phillips said May 12 that the kids get nutritious snacks, do homework, play board games and take field trips to places like the YMCA and Cottey College in Nevada.

Other retirees are third grade teacher Debbie Potter, fourth grade teacher Gina Dodson and special education teacher Penny Beattie.

Phillips said increasing lunches by 25 cents might be judicious because food goes up with gasoline and the Education Department won't let the district raise tickets by more than five to 10 cents annually after 2011-'12.

She said the feds will also start mandating more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains in 2012-'13.

Phillips did not recommend raising the breakfast tab, which is $1.25 for all students. She said 62 percent of Bronaugh's 144 kindergarten through sixth graders and 57 percent of its 122 high schoolers get free or reduced-cost meals.

Noting Cafeteria Director Brenda Schmidt has kept her department in the black since arriving in 2008, Phillips said, "For me, it's not a good time to be raising costs for families in Vernon County, but a 25-cent increase would allow us to keep up with our expenses."

In other business, the board learned Bronaugh's proposed new three-year Internet contract with the University of Missouri-affiliated MoreNet will go from $5,000 to $8,500 annually.

Phillips said the Missouri General Assembly's $10 million improvement in school transportation funding will only send $1,800 to $1,900 more here.

Having just attended a Missouri School Boards Association convention, board member Saundra Bogart said the group is mulling a greater concentration of chemistry and science while offering more vocational-technical training.

"Nothing is written in stone," said Bogart, seconded by Phillips, who noted boards and administrators will now respond.

In her year-end report, Parent and Teacher Association President Sherry Brown said an influx of new families harbingers enhanced enrollments of 23 kindergarteners and at least two dozen first graders this fall.

"Things are picking up," Brown said.

Principal Bryan McArthur said average daily attendance, on which state funding is based, has become vexatious, "looking on the low side below 94 percent," though June numbers from May might ease the situation.

The panel kept out-of-district tuition at $6,400 a year and substitute teachers' pay at $70 per diem and $90 a day for long-term assignments.

Board member Jeremy Weaver said that KidGuard Insurance "is not paying on stuff, so we're not doing it again;" however, Weaver voted with the majority to contract with the firm in St. Louis to cover students for $12 a year at school activities and to provide 24-hour coverage for $40 a year.

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