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The Ava R-I Board of Education discussed budget concerns and a recently-developed athletic facility study at a special work session on Dec. 8.
The first order of business was a new superintendent evaluation tool.
The board chose a new tool from four options, said Superintendent Brian Wilson.
“The one they chose seemed to be a little more user-friendly,” he said. “They would be able to make comments and set goals using it.”
Wilson then presented an athletic facility study that Sapp Design Associates of Springfield created for the board.
The study outlined several areas of improvement for the district’s athletic facilities on Highway Y, which include facilities for football, track, baseball and softball.
“A lot of people ask why we’re looking at capital improvement projects when the economy is bad,” Wilson said. “The main reasons are that we have to take care of safety concerns as they arise, and we have to do some preventative maintenance to keep our facilities in good working order.”
The board will likely tackle the light poles around the football field first, at a cost of around $100,000.
“We will probably look at working that into next year’s budget,” Wilson said.
The poles were cored earlier this year, and some were down to around 30 percent life, which is a safety concern for students and patrons of the district.
Other parts of the study included: concessions and restrooms, seating or bleachers, the field house and locker facilities and the track.
“We want to complete these projects in stages,” Wilson said. “Everything depends on the economy, but I’d like for this to be a 5-plus year plan.”
The board then discussed the recent Missouri School Board Association conference they attended.
Many of the board members and Wilson spoke briefly about seminars that they particularly enjoyed, including: teacher evaluations, communities in schools, search & seizure, Sunshine Law and policies and procedures.
Wilson then presented information about the current financial state of the district.
He presented the board with information about what they can expect in the next three years, and areas that may have to be cut or reduced in the district.
“The district deficit spent last year, or spent more money than they brought in,” Wilson said.
He said that a few years ago, districts thought that the economy would have turned around by now, and that isn’t the case. Instead of facing three years of hard times, we’ve faced those three years and now are looking at another three years.
“The ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) didn’t jump-start the economy like people thought it would,” Wilson said.
Wilson surveyed faculty and staff in the district, and asked them to choose three levels of cuts.
“The first level of cuts are things we are trying to do now,” Wilson said. “They aren’t huge cuts, but things we can trim down without anyone feeling it.”
Those cuts include: limiting paper and utility usage, setting temperature controls, monitoring hot water temperature, reducing field trips and reducing library materials.
The second level of cuts chosen by the staff included: reducing or limiting textbooks and considering online textbooks, departmental and supply budget cuts, freezing pay raises (but not steps), early retirement incentives, scheduling of athletic events and considering a cheaper student information system.
The final level of cuts included: professional development limitations, instituting a minimum number of students for an activity or club to exist, four-day school day or extend school hours to reduce number of school days, evaluate class sizes, eliminate Career Ladder or Summer School and charge for pre-school.
If the economy does not show improvements, it is likely that the district will see some of the level 2 or level 3 cuts implemented.
Another way the district will be tightening its belt is by not filling positions when staff retire, Wilson said.
He commended previous boards and administrations for building up fund balances to ride out the current economy.
“Districts get a bad rap for having a lot of money in reserve,” he said. “These times are why those reserve funds are important.”