Cape Board of Education approves annual budget

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Cape Girardeau Board of Education approved an annual budget Monday night that projects $40.9 million in operating expenses and adds $330,000 to the district's operating reserve.

The budget includes an average 5 percent salary increase for all employees and moves $1.4 million from general revenue into capital projects.

Projected operating revenues for the district total $41.3 million, $3.8 million less than anticipated due to a change in the tax levy, which decreased from $4.16 to $4.03 per $100 assessed value. Because property values increased faster than inflation, the state constitution required the district to reduce the rate.

The budget is due under state law at the end of the fiscal year, June 30, but the board adopts last year's budget and amends it when property tax revenue has been determined, usually in September. This year, a motion to approve an amended budget was postponed at an Oct. 15 meeting when former director of finance Brenda McCowan said numbers presented to the board were incorrect because of a computer transferring error.

At a Nov. 5 meeting, a report of an audit of last year's finances was presented, which included three instances of noncompliance and one control weakness. In one case, principal and interest payments of about $2.5 million were made but never recorded in the district's financial statements. At that meeting, Misty Clifton's contract as the new director of finance was approved, and a decision was made to postpone the approval of the budget until Clifton had time to review.

She said at the meeting Monday that the major change in the original proposed budget and the one approved was due to the change in the tax levy.

Other highlights of the budget include:

* The beginning operating fund balance was about $10.6 million. The estimated operating fund balance at the end of the year is about $10.9 million.

* The debt service fund had a beginning balance of $14.6 million, with $3.96 million in estimated revenue and $2.5 million in estimated expenditures, leaving a fund balance of nearly $16 million.

Other board action

* In a special session before the meeting, the board discussed qualities they were looking for in a new superintendent. Dr. David Scala is retiring at the end of the school year after three years in Cape Girardeau.

A recurring comment was the need for a strong manager in finances, especially in terms of Missouri law.

"My No. 1 [quality] is age, and the number of years before they plan to retire," Tom Reinagel said.

Kyle McDonald wants someone who will be visible in the community and serve as a liaison.

Other must-haves were a need for a superintendent to conduct "good evaluations" and to be forward thinking.

* The board approved plans to bid out a proposal to renovate the district's administrative office to include space for the alternative education center. Last month, architect Philip Smith was sent back to the drawing board after initial plans were 4,000 square feet over what was originally discussed. However, board members hesitated to approve his scaled-back plan, worried classrooms would be too small and did not leave enough room for expansion. Both plans will be bid out.

* Dental benefits and life insurance will be provided by the district beginning in January, at a cost to the district of about $100,000 and $13,303 respectively. These benefits were eliminated during budget cuts years ago but the district's current finances allow them to be reinstated.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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