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story.lead_photo.caption FILE: Next year, the New Bloomfield R-3 School District will buy school supplies for students.

The New Bloomfield R-3 School District Board of Education discussed state cuts and budget plans Tuesday during its meeting.

Superintendent Sarah Wisdom updated the board on the district's finances, explaining disruptions from COVID-19 have meant a series of budgetary impacts.

"The good news is, when COVID hit, we pretty much put a stop to spending unless it was related to teaching kids online, feeding them and things that we had to have," Wisdom said.

Unfortunately, Wisdom expects the district to see an estimated $120,000 less from the state's June payment, as well as an 8 percent hit to transportation, as a result of COVID-19-related cuts announced by Gov. Mike Parson earlier this month.

Still, as fiscal year 2020 ends, the district will have a fund balance of around 38-40 percent.

"This is why you have a fund balance — it's for times like this," Wisdom said. "It's your savings account, and we can weather the storm. We're going to be OK, and we'll still make sure that our teachers and staff have what they need to educate our kids. It is a blessing to have a little bit in the bank to take some of this because I don't think the withholds and the budget cuts are going to end quite yet."

A plan to build new restrooms and concession stands at the high school football fields has been put on hold.

Budget additions that will go forward include a second music teacher, a zero-hour stipend for weight training, a stipend for drivers education to be taught during Monday Academy, a new assistant cross country coach, a 5 percent increase in health insurance for full-time employees and district-purchased school supplies for all students.

"District-purchased school supplies for all students — that was something that has been on my mind and wish-list to do," Wisdom said. "You know, it really is not going to cost us as much as I anticipated."

The board unanimously approved the fiscal year 2021 budget, under which the district will have a fund balance of 43.6 percent.

"I was really conservative with this because we don't know where this is going," Wisdom said. "This budget is probably the most unknown budget you could build."

The board also approved a 2 percent increase to salaries for classified staff, who are paid an hourly rate. The change comes as a result of the switch to a four-day week.

"As you know, we went to four-day," Wisdom said. "The goal is to make sure that our non-certified staff do not lose money in that transition."

Another motivation stems from the effort to keep wages competitive. In 2018, Missouri voters chose to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2023.

"The school district should not have to follow the minimum wage law, but if we don't, these non-certified staff members could obviously go somewhere else and work a minimum wage job making for money," Wisdom said. "And so that does need to be addressed, and this is one way to start addressing that."

If the district wants to keep up, it will have to make more changes in the future — the lowest position in the district starts pay at $10.57, though wages increase based on position and seniority.

"Our goal as administrators is to get the very best people in each spot for our kids and our community. I can tell you we can't do that if they make, you know, $10.57 here and $12 an hour flipping burgers at McDonald's."

New board members Gina Clarke, Angie Robinson Sullivan and Josh Woods participated for the first time. The three replace Debbie Cuno, Craid Abbott and Johnathan Morningstar. Terri Sweeten was re-elected as board president, Tod Schattgen was chosen as board vice president, and Stacey Allen was chosen as board treasurer.

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