Salem R-80 Board of Education members met April 19 for its regular meeting.
Questions were brought to light after the meeting regarding tuition changes and funds earmarked for tin gym renovations.
Tuition for rural schools
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) provided a formula that distinguishes a specified amount to be charged as tuition. The suggested amount for Salem R-80 for kindergarten through eighth grade is $8,009.12; grades nine through 12 is $8,373.48 per school year. The board voted in April of 2021 to raise tuition for each district to $8,000. The previous tuition was $7,487.41, where it remained for a number of years. The board voted in April 2022 to keep tuition at $8,000.
Tuition was historically figured based on attendance hours per student. Administrative time was spent figuring each student’s attendance hours week in, and week out. The board voted to change the process to one based on enrollment hours. This change will increase tuition for all four rural schools. Possible enrollment hours were combined with the highest percentage of attendance for the entire 2020-2021 school year (about 94.25 percent) to determine the number of hours possible per rural school district. Dent-Phelps R-III had the highest percentage of attendance for the year, therefore the district will see a $696 difference in tuition billing. Oak Hill R-I had the lowest attendance, thus seeing the highest increase in tuition of $16,154.
Per pupil expenditures are figured by dividing the current expenditures over an entire academic year for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, by the number of students in those grades. Expenditures include instruction and instruction-related costs, student support services, administration, and operations and exclude funds for school construction and other capital outlays, debt service, and programs outside of public elementary and secondary education.
Per pupil expenditures for each of the Salem R-80 district schools total $9,771 at the high school; $9,227, middle school; $9,152, upper elementary; and $11,863, elementary. Tuition from rural schools is applied to the per pupil expenditures for students attending ninth through 12th grade, from rural districts.
Funds, Tin Gym Renovations
There have been three Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds signed into law by Congress. The first fund was in March of 2020 (ESSER I); the second in December of 2020 (ESSER II); and the third, American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act ARP ESSER was signed into law in March of 2021 (ESSER III).
R-80 received approximately $425,819 for ESSER I funds. Those funds were used to help cover COVID- related costs, including purchasing hand sanitizer, masks, pay substitute teachers, etc. R-80 received approximately $1,732,930 for ESSER II and will receive approximately $3,899,013 for ESSER III. A minimum of 20 percent of ESSER III funds must be used to address learning loss through evidence-based interventions responding to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs. A common notion among districts is to treat these funds for what they are, one-time revenues that should not be applied to recurring expenditures. Some of the non-tangible items funded were tutoring, transportation, technology, instructional coaches, and more.
Several tangible updates have been made including HVAC upgrades, which are still in process. Over 130 units, most of which were over 20 years old, were replaced. Other energy savings including HVAC management systems, overdue roofing upgrades, weather stripping, caulking, recommissioning of HVAC units not being replaced, water conservation measures, and building management systems have been applied to buildings in the district. The project totaled over $2,500,000.00 and will provide energy savings for the district. This project was paid for by funds already held by the district.
The $1.7 million to be spent on the tin gym and locker room project came from ESSER II funds. The initial money was used for salaries, which opened up other funds for the district to use on this project. For the tin gym project, approximately $900,000 of that cost included renovating the existing locker rooms adjoining the gymnasium and renovating the existing tin gym. The remainder of that budget will be used to construct an indoor turf facility adjoining and to the north of the existing tin gym.
The tin gym will be taken down to the framework. The building was constructed in 1984, and since that time, has never been climate-controlled. Deterioration of equipment has been a factor for decades, with high and low temperatures, as well as humidity. The construction of the indoor facility will feature new weight sets (donated), and partial turf for indoor practices. Both locker rooms in the high school gymnasium will additionally see an overhaul.
“If there was ever a time to do upgrades to our buildings it would be now, with ESSER funds. However, even if all ESSER funds were gathered, it would not be enough to construct a new elementary school,” said Lynne Reed, superintendent.
William Lynch Elementary has been a top priority on the long-range district and facilities plan for quite some time. The district can transfer up to approximately $1 million per year to its Fund 4 account for capital improvements. As Fund 4 continues to grow, the hope is to be able to accrue more funds for a new elementary school. At this time, the district will have up to approximately $3,000,000 left from the ESSER III fund after paying for the required 20 percent for learning loss. Some of that money will be used toward the construction of the elementary school, with the balance supplemented with a bond, if approved by the taxpayers.
A common way a school district borrows money is to issue a bond. Districts ask tax payers for a Bond Levy, or an increase in property taxes. The increased amount of taxes pays back lenders on the interest of the loan.
Project KIDS bond issue totaling $4.5 million was passed in 2013 in Dent County, with 65 percent of the vote. The issue called for a levy increase of 45 cents per $100 of assessed value. Numerous changes occurred on the campuses of the high school, and former junior high school – now referred to as the middle school.
In a 2020 school board meeting, just before COVID-19 affected school districts across the country, it was reported that the committee-driven facility plan was to be a roadmap to help with budgeting and project planning for the district. Included in the plan was electrical work, new HVAC units and an athletic training facility, with top priority being William Lynch Elementary School. Former superintendent John McColloch said the “the state of William Lynch is ‘not as dire’ as portrayed at the final committee meeting. But action is definitely needed within five years.”
The plan is to make major strides towards a new school before the end of the 2022-23 school year. The Board of Education approved placing the elementary school bond issue on the ballot in April 2023, with the goal relocating the elementary students to the Upper Elementary campus. At the May 2022 meeting, the board of education will form the CSIP facilities committee, which will begin working on district-wide facilities plan, including plans for the elementary school addition.