New money and favorable state budget discussions could complicate the Columbia Board of Education’s vote tonight on whether to issue teacher contracts that would offer no base pay raise and cut 50 staff positions from the district.
Board policy and state statues require the district to notify teachers who will not be rehired for the next year by April 15. The district issues all contracts at that time.
What it would do
The contracts up for approval would keep teacher base pay the same and only allow for incremental increases in salary based on education and experience. The incremental increases would cost $2.2 million, bringing the district’s deficit to $8.7 million and forcing it to eliminate 50 full-time positions.
The item also has a clause that says any additional state appropriations would go to replacement contracts. An infusion of more funds now appears to be a distinct possibility. Last Wednesday, the state House passed an education budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that exceeds this year’s budget by more than $100 million.
Deputy Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said it is too early to make predictions of what this could mean because the budget still has to be approved by special committees and the Senate, which in the past few years has drastically revised the House budget. But Cowherd was encouraged that legislators are thinking about education when planning next year’s budget.
“Passing that budget makes it seem like a lot of people in Jefferson City are interested in seeing education fully funded,” he said.
The district was also told Friday it would receive $2.87 million from previously withheld funds by Gov. Bob Holden. The board has said that withheld money restored by Holden would go to reserve funds, but administrators and board members said that decision could change.
Board member Kerry Crist said that the released money is an important issue and that it will be discussed at tonight’s meeting.
The operating budget, which is where teachers’ salaries come from, could also be affected by another action item. The board will vote tonight on whether to renew its current contract with the district’s bus company, First Student Inc. and if more bus cameras will be added to the vehicles operating in the district.
At a work session last month, board members said they were pleased with First Student because there were fewer complaints from the community than in past years with other bus companies.
Right now, there is one camera for every three buses, and students can’t tell which buses have them. The board said safety might be improved if there were more cameras. Cowherd said principals around the district have requested the extra cameras. “When an incident happens, there’s always a couple of parties involved with different stories,” he said. “More cameras would give us better coverage so we can pull out a tape and find out what really happened.”
Adding cameras is expected to cost $15,125 in addition to an increased contract cost. Cowherd said some of this money, although probably less than in past years, will be reimbursed by the state.
District administrators are also recommending that the board approve the original plans for a new wrestling facility at Hickman High School. The board accepted the facility, which would be donated by the Hickman Wrestling Booster Club, in January but asked the district Facilities Committee to look over the plans.
The Facilities Committee wants to further expand the building size by 1,320 square feet and use brick on the exterior, which would cost more than $143,000. The district doesn’t have money allocated for the facility. The booster club is asking the board to approve the original project proposal, which doesn’t include the Facilities Committee’s recommendations.
Bucky Pescaglia, the booster club president and a parent of two Hickman wrestlers, said he appreciates the board’s involvement but wants to see the plans finalized soon.
“We’ve been waiting with bated breath to see what is going to happen,” he said. “Once this is finalized, we can start raising funding at full-speed ahead.”
Superintendent Phyllis Chase will also update the board tonight on plans for the new model elementary school she proposed at the last work session.