R-I Closes Fiscal Year, Anticipating ‘Tight’ Budget For 2024-2025

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Having dipped deeply into its capital projects funds last year, the Doniphan R-I district is looking at an anticipated $4 million spending deficit going into the 2024-2025 school term.

The trade-off is that students will return in August to a brand new career center, athletes will play basketball on a new gymnasium floor, and bus drivers will enjoy a spacious, new garage.

However, the budget adopted June 25 by the board for next term will be “very tight.”

As he met with the board for perhaps the last time, retiring Doniphan R-I Superintendent Brad Hagood said, “We knew going into this particular year that we were going to deficit spend due to the career center.

Hagood gave a breakdown of the actual totals stating, “We started the year with $10,718,591 and received revenues of $22,114,538. We had expenses in the amount of $22,139,436, which left us with our deficit of about $4 million.

By the time all the numbers are in (June 30), that figure might even be lower than that, said Hagood.

“We are showing a positive fund balance at the end of next school year of $16,498, and that was with some creativity on our part as to how we will get to that point,” he said.

The new budget will reflect a cut in supplies, but will provide for another bus and anticipated technological needs.

“We are estimating revenues of $20,529,194 and expenses in the amount of $20,512,696,” said Hagood.

He advised that his successor, Mike Owen, and the district will need to be extremely conservative in their spending and “stick to this budget as close as you possibly can.”

In addition to completing the capital projects already started, another budgeting burden on the horizon will be salaries.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson last month signed Missouri Senate Bill 727 and House Bill 2287. Together, the bills permanently increase teachers’ base pay to at least $40,000 per year, (which is another $2,000 more than was proposed by Resolution Teach, the 85-cent levy approved by voters in April).

The act also raises salaries for teachers with a master’s degree and 10+ years experience to a minimum of $46,000 for 2025-2026, and $48,000 per year by 2027.

By those numbers teachers will become among the top wage earners in the county. According to 2023 statistics, the average annual salary in Ripley County was $20,946, (55 percent lower than the US average) and median salary was $17,279, (60 percent lower than the US average).

Although the increases will be mandated by the state, the state will not provide the means for meeting that demand. School districts will have to come up with the money to fund the increases.

“Mr. Owen will have some work cut out for him, trying to figure out what to do with salaries for next year,” said Hagood.

The board amended the budget to reflect actual expenditures.

The board adopted a resolution for the ASBR (Annual Secretary of the Board Report) Fund 4 transfer of 7 percent.

Hagood explained, “DESE provides the number for us every year, letting us know how much we can transfer from Fund 1 to Fund 4. This year that amount is $686,912, and the current budget does reflect that transfer.”

Hagood stated, “We promised voters if they passed the 85-cent tax levy, we would continue to try to make that transfer every year for capital projects.”

Moving on to other action items, the board considered four bids which had been submitted by the local banks for the district’s $3 million CD.

The board conferred with the new administrator, and it was decided that the best option was to go with the Bank of Grandin, for a 24-month deposit at 5.07 percent APY.

The board approved updated student handbooks as presented by administrators of the elementary, intermediate, middle school and high schools.

Only minor changes were made, and the updated handbooks will be provided to students at the beginning of the term.

Dr. Jay Fish reported that custodians are a little ahead of schedule on their efforts to get the facilities ready for the next school year, and some minor structural repairs are also planned.

He reported that the city installed a new water meter on the FEMA building.

The bus garage lacks only “a little bit of concrete work to wrap things up.”

Area A of the Current River Career Center will be ready for students by August. The grant funds are being released for Area B. The district’s part of the work will begin July 8, and the contracted work is set for July 24.

Move in for welding and auto mechanics is on track to take place by the second semester, [January 2025] said Dr. Fish.

The district received a 92 percent pass rate on the bus inspection, earning a total fleet excellence award. The minor repairs that were needed have already been made, said Dr. Fish.

During executive session the board approved a resignation for Zoey Sprous, special education paraprofessional, and hired Michael Turner, DMS assistant football coach; Lynn March, and Trenton Lippoldt, substitute bus drivers; Louise (Chris) Sipes, high school science teacher; and Megan Bradford, special education paraprofessional.

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