School board begins looking at next budget, welcomes new members

DeSpain again is voted into president position, while Darin Preis becomes vice president.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:23 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

At a five-hour meeting Monday night, the Columbia School Board devoted most of its time to discuss a non-action issue: the district’s next budget.

The budget discussion, which focused on understanding the parameters for the creation of the 2007-2008 fiscal year budget, raised questions about the base salaries for new teachers in the district. An earlier proposal for salaries said teachers should receive an additional $1,000 per year, but in its current form, the budget would only allow for an additional $500.

Newcomer Jan Mees, sworn in at the beginning of the meeting, said the addition was fairly low compared to what had been requested. The initial budget proposal was $24 million and was trimmed to a much slimmer $4 million.

Among the top concerns with the creation of the budget were the categories the budget is divided into. With Gov. Matt Blunt’s additional funding for education, there are new guidelines for the board to follow.

“We have to look at the assumptions we’ve built the budget on first,” said Jacque Cowherd, the district’s deputy superintendent.

Cowherd said the board will have more details about the budget at its next regular meeting on May 14. A vote on the budget could be taken as early as June.

At the start of the meeting, the board re-elected Karla DeSpain as its president. It also named Darin Preis as its vice president.

The board also approved a roofing company and an energy services company to handle planned improvements to district buildings.

The energy services projects, which are designed to find ways to improve heating, cooling and ventilation throughout the buildings, will be funded by the recently approved bond measure. Custom Energy, approved Monday night, will handle the entire process, from planning and construction to maintaining facilities after the projects are completed.

Weathercraft Inc. was chosen to replace Parkade Elementary School’s roof. The project had an estimated cost of $535,000, but Weathercraft’s bid was lower — it will only cost the district $443,510 to remove the current roof, replace insulation and create a better-draining roof. The roof is being replaced in response to the March 2006 hail storm, and the project will be funded through insurance.

Near the meeting’s end, the board approved the resignation of board member Don Ludwig. He had presented his letter of resignation to the board at its 12 meeting, citing conflicts of interest with his wife’s new position as superintendent of curriculum instruction.

His absence will create an open seat on the board, which will be advertised beginning today. Applications are due April 24, and board members have tentatively chosen May 17 as the day they will hold a special session to openly interview applicants.

Ludwig will remain on the board until a replacement is found.

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