Cape school board looks at better worker benefits

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Cape Girardeau school board has yet to approve the 2006-2007 budget for the district, but already it's studying the possibility of using some of a projected surplus to provide better employee benefits.

During a budget discussion at a special meeting Wednesday night, board member Tom Reinagel suggested the school system look at spending some of the estimated $13.6 million surplus to boost benefits.

"I feel we could have done better on teachers' salaries," said Reinagel, who suggested increasing employee benefits during this school year.

He said that could boost employee morale. "Nowadays a lot of people work for benefits," he said.

Superintendent Dr. David Scala promised to explore the feasibility of increasing benefits and bring the issue back to the board.

But school officials said some of the projected surplus needs to be held in reserve to cover any unexpected emergencies.

Board member Steve Trautwein cautioned against digging too deep into fund balances. "My personal opinion is you can never have enough reserves," he said.

The $38.3 million in projected expenses includes a 3.1 percent increase in employee salaries. The board approved the pay raises earlier this year.

District spending totaled more than $35 million in the past fiscal year, officials said.

The new fiscal year began July 1. The district is operating under the old budget until a new budget is approved.

Board members expect to approve the new budget at their Aug. 21 meeting. School officials said some minor revisions need to be made to line items in the budget.

The board said it didn't want to approve the budget until those revisions have been made.

The new budget projects revenue of more than $39 million, nearly $733,000 more than projected expenses.

The district starts the school year with $12.9 million in reserve, budget documents show. With revenue expected to outpace expenses, the funds balance is expected to total $13.6 million by June 30 of next year.

Schools finance director Brenda McCowan said the new budget anticipates keeping the tax levy at $4.16 per $100 assessed valuation.

The district's assessed valuation stands at more than $490 million, a $25.7 million increase over a year ago, officials said.

"I think the budget is in good condition," Scala said after the meeting.

335-6611, extension 123

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