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JC School Board talks budget, transportation

by Anna Campbell | March 10, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

The Jefferson City School Board reviewed a preliminary budget for next year, discussed transportation and passed a number of policy updates Thursday at its regular March board meeting.

Prior to the board meeting, Superintendent Bryan McGraw gave a presentation on the upcoming bond issue, nicknamed the "Kids First" proposal. If approved in April by 4/7 of the voters, the proposal would fund the construction of a new early childhood center, expansion of Nichols Career Center, renovation of both middle schools, and upgrades at Miller Performing Arts Center, among other items.

Chief Financial Officer Shari LePage presented on the preliminary budget for Fiscal Year 2023-24. LePage said the district is expecting a million dollar increase in local tax revenue depending on assessed valuations. The district also anticipates full funding of transportation by the state.

LePage also showed the possibility of raising teacher salaries $1,229 per teacher, for a total of about $1 million.

Including increases for other staff positions, benefits and other items, there would be an additional $2.3 million in increased salary costs. The district is also planning for an additional net number of 3 elementary teachers, a secondary math coordinator, a Jefferson City Academic Center nurse, special education and preschool instructional coaches, a student services coordinator, and a director of community relations and student assistance.

LePage projected the loss of COVID-19 dollars and some provisions which could lead to less positive budgets for the district in future years, though she emphasized those were far down the road.

Director of Facilities, Safety and Transportation Frank Underwood presented on transportation proposals received from First Student and North America Central.

The transportation committee recommended rejecting all bids, negotiating a one-year extension with First Student and going back to bid in the fall to see if more contractors will reach out, which Underwood thought was likely. The board approved the recommendation.

Shelley Thompson, president of the Jefferson City National Education Association spoke during open forum, expressing support for Career Ladder, the bond issue, and an increase in the base salary of teachers. Thompson urged the board to use policy GBAA which governs staff extra duty assignments "judiciously and sparingly" to ensure teachers are paid for any extra work they do.

Thompson also requested that the board build in a report from JCNEA as a permanent agenda item in future meetings.

The board also voted to adopt a number of policy updates vetted by the policy committee.

During the reports portion of the meeting, Deputy Superintendent Heather Beaulieu said the district will begin evaluating programs Friday at the kindergarten through eighth grade level through staff surveys.

Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Troy Hogg said Thorpe Gordon staff are developing a new mission statement and working on plans for school uniforms for the upcoming STEM academy.

Hogg said just two to three spots will be open per grade level to students who don't live within the Thorpe Gordon boundaries. Those applicants will be selected through a random lottery on May 1, with a wait list to follow.

McGraw also presented the district's Annual Performance Report results under the new Missouri School Improvement Plan version six system. Each time the system is overhauled, McGraw said, it becomes more rigorous and school districts have to strive to get better.

McGraw said the district had a strong performance in English Language Arts, Science, and its graduation rate, but faces challenges in math.

Chief of Operations Dawn Berhorst presented on athletic facility progress.

At Jefferson City High School, the soccer turf has been installed and should be usable within a week. The baseball field irrigation is installed, but weather has made it muddy, meaning crews are unable to level it yet.

At Capital City High School, the football stadium grandstands concrete is done, but crews still need to finish adding a special coating before adding bleachers.

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