Employees of the Jefferson City Public Schools can look forward to another bump in pay next year.
On Monday, the Board of Education approved 1.8 percent pay raises for both faculty and staff, a decision expected to cost the district about $1 million. The raise is the same percentage approved last year.
And, although they haven't approved the decision yet, the board also discussed the possibility of increasing funding for the district's busing program by 2 percent. The extra money - about $210,000 - would be enough to add four bus routes. Under the new plan, high school students could live within one mile of the school, instead of 3.5 miles, which is the current radius.
"We think it will help with attendance and safety," Jason Hoffman, chief financial officer, said.
But the decision to boost pay is accompanied by an estimation the district will run a $1.4 million deficit for the 2015 fiscal year, leaving the district a 22.1 percent fund balance, or reserve fund.
Last year the district ran a $831,000 deficit with a 24 percent fund balance.
Hoffman said the $1.4 million deficit is part of a multi-year plan to spend some of the district's reserves, but that the era for deficit spending likely will end soon. He noted the funding is only used to cover one-time expenses, not permanent operating costs. He also noted the plan foresees surpluses being generated in the years to come with the district's fund balance staying at about 21 percent.
Former Board President Joy Sweeney was initially skittish.
"It's almost double the largest deficit we've every had," she said.
Hoffman noted the budget is only preliminary; a final document will be approved in June - in time for the beginning of the next fiscal year that begins July 1. If needed, adjustments could be made in other
places and the salary pay increases could still be honored, he added.
"It's a strategic spend down," Ruth said.
About 81 percent of the district's operating revenues are derived from three primary sources: local property taxes, Proposition C funds and funding from the state's foundation formula. Because revenues tend to flow into coffers unevenly throughout the year, the district has to carry a hefty fund balance to meet cash flow demands, board member John Ruth noted.
Hoffman shared with board members a few preliminary figures for next year's budget.
Hoffman said the improving economy gives him hope that the district can expect an increase in revenues. He also noted state officials - both in the governor's office and in the General Assembly - are talking about boosting funding to the state's education foundation formula. He also noted, if the district grows by 50 students, that will add about $700,000 in state aid to the district's bottom line. And he said sales taxes collected by Prop C are also up about 5.1 percent, year to date.
Other new purchases being considered for the upcoming year include the addition of four new elementary teaching positions. Hoffman said administrators also want to hire another technology instructor who would help teachers learn how to use the technology the district has invested in.
"We have people to support our purchases of hardware, but we need help with software," Hoffman said.
Administrators also would like to raise summer school pay from $2,700 to $3,000, since it hasn't been touched in recent years.
Hoffman was pleased to report that retirement and health care outlays are expected to be stable in the year to come, and no additional rate increases are anticipated.
In other business, the board:
• Learned about a community telephone survey the district plans to do in April. Results from the survey will be reported in June.
• Heard an update on the district's health and wellness program.
• Approved for rehire 245 probationary teachers for next school year.