School district finances ‘solid’

Jefferson City Public School faculty and staff may see pay raises next school year.

A preliminary budget presented to the Board of Education would provide an additional $882,500 for salaries next year.

The extra funding would be used to advance faculty members one step forward on the salary schedule and provide a 1.8 percent increase in pay for other employees.

Staff retirements are expected to save the district an additional $250,000 next year.

In his remarks Monday night, district chief financial officer Jason Hoffman estimated $814,000 in new, additional revenue will flow into the district next fiscal year.

He anticipates $500,000 could be generated from a boost in local property tax revenues, specifically from new construction and new vehicle sales. Gov. Jay Nixon also has called for a $66 million increase in funding to the public school foundation formula, which could translate into an additional $500,000 for the district. And a bump in Proposition C collections — a state sales tax benefitting schools — could mean $150,000 more for Jefferson City. About 77 percent of the district’s revenues are derived from a combination of those three sources.

However, Hoffman warned the district could lose $336,000 when federal funds are sequestered.

“It’s not if, but how much,” Hoffman said. “Federal sequestration is a major revenue question mark.”

He said believes the district will receive less funding from a federal initiative that supports Jefferson City’s preschool program and five of the district’s lower-socioeconomic elementary schools. Federal funding for special education also could be cut.

Towards the end of the meeting, Board member Dennis Nickelson said Sen. Roy Blunt had indicated to him that sequestration rates could rise even higher, as lawmakers struggle to determine how to cut programs or where to find revenue.

In the district’s current fiscal year 2013 budget, the original plan called for a $1.23 million deficit, leaving with the district with a fund balance — a reserve fund — of just less than 25 percent. However, JCPS officials have whittled the deficit down to $870,000, leaving the district with almost a 26 percent fund balance, well ahead of the district’s 20 percent goal.

Hoffman also updated board members on the state of Missouri’s “foundation formula.” For fiscal year 2012-13, Jefferson City received $5,640 per student, $491 short of what state officials estimate it costs to educate a K-12 student in 2012.

In next year’s budget, Hoffman expects the district to receive $5,824 per student, about $892 short of the district’s fully funded share of the state formula.

Despite problems with foundation formula funding, Hoffman reported the district’s fiscal position “remains solid,” an opinion shared by Superintendent Brian Mitchell.

“Our district has weathered the economic downturn,” Mitchell said. He added the district did so, even while giving annual raises to employees and rolling back the district’s property tax rate numerous years in a row.

In other business, the Jefferson City Board of Education:

• Adopted a resolution that promises the district will not seek another tax hike for at least five years, if the voters approve a 55-cent tax increase in April.

• Agreed to support the nomination of Doug Whitehead as president-elect of the Missouri School Boards Association.

• Heard a presentation from Executive Director Karen Enloe on the activities of the Jefferson City Public Schools Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the public schools.

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