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by Patty Cheffey
The Palmyra R-I School District is taking steps now to prepare for a possible bond issue in the future.
The R-I Board of Education heard an update from L.J. Hart and Company, the district’s bonding company, during their meeting last week, at which they also heard a report on the A+ program, approved the 2023-24 calendar, discussed facility needs, heard a legislative update, heard a report on water lead testing and heard a report on cyber security among several other items.
While the board has no immediate plans for a bond issue, Brad Wegman of L.J. Hart and Company spoke to them about the district’s bond capacity.
In addition, he reviewed the history of Palmyra’s bond payments, and where the district stands now and could stand in the future.
“We are at a stage where we are doing short-term and long-term facilities planning throughout the district,” said Superintendent Jason Harper. “We will make a determination in the next few months if want to pursue a no tax increase bond issue.”
If the district decides to do that, Harper said they will seek community input.
“We will need to work with all of our stakeholders to prioritize the needs of the district,” he added. “If we do go in that direction, it could take place in April of 2024 or 2025.
“The district is growing, and we not only need to maintain and update current facilities, but we need to address the needs of our students moving into the future.”
Wegman also gave figures for the district regarding a possible “no tax increase bond issue” in future years. These figures can fluctuate because of many factors, including local assessed valuation and interest rates.
As part of that consideration, the board also discussed facility needs for the district, directing Harper to gather bids for purchase and installation of new air conditioning units at the high school and elementary school.
According to Harper, there are 51 units between those two buildings that are over 20 years old, and they are at the end of their lifespan.
In addition, the district will be requesting bids for the installation of LED lighting throughout the district.
A plan for the lighting is already in place, and the energy and maintenance savings could allow this project to pay for itself in eight to 10 years, Harper said.
Marty Smyser gave an update on the A+ Program, in which there are currently 70 seniors participating.
Students who maintain a 2.5 GPA, have less than three discipline referrals, and attend at 95 percent over their four-year high school career are eligible for free tuition to any two year or technical school in the state of Missouri, Smyser said.
The board approved the 2023-2024 school calendar. School will start on Wednesday, Aug. 23, and finish the school year on Tuesday, May 21.
Graduation will be on May 16, 2024.
Also during the meeting, Harper gave a legislative update, including discussing the governor’s budget recommendations regarding education.
Those included a $250 million allocation for an Education Stabilization Fund, full funding of school transportation, an increase of $56 million for early childhood education and $50 million for school safety grants to harden facilities, hire school resource officers or add mental health services.
Harper noted the governor also recommended expanded funding of the career ladder program and continued funding of the Missouri Teacher Baseline Salary Fund to assist districts in increasing minimum teacher salaries to $38,000.
SB 4 which would create a parents’ “bill of rights” and SB 5 which would create open enrollment was also discussed.
“It is very early in the session, so many of these early bills will have amendments added and will look very different as we go through the legislative process,” Harper said. “Like most public schools, open enrollment is a concern because it makes planning for educational, financial and facility needs very difficult.”
The “Get the Lead Out” initiative that will go into effect in 2024 was also discussed.
School districts will have to test all water outlets that are associated with drinking and preparing food. All outlets must be tested every four years, with 25 percent being tested each year.
The water must test under 5 ppb, or the school district will have to remediate the situation.
Harper noted the initial lead testing shows no lead presence, but if that should occur, the district would have to look at possible filtration and/or replacement of faucets and piping.
The district will also be responsible for installing cyber security measures which would protect the district from cyber-attacks and allow the district’s cyber insurance deductible to fall from $50,000 to $10,000, Harper said.
Those steps could include multifactor authentication, backups of all important data, endpoint detection, privileged access and proper training and planning for cyber attacks, he said.
The board approved the food service request for proposal.
Palmyra R-I will bid out its food service for a three-year contract.
There will be a mandatory pre-proposal walkthrough on March 9, at 1 p.m. for interested parties. Proposals are due by April 5, at 4 p.m.
Also during the board meeting, the Builders Club officers presented information on their chapter activities.
Students, Jozie Becker, Joe Poor and Tenley Jones spoke about various service projects that have been completed and upcoming projects the group will participate in to help the community.
The Builder’s Club is affiliated with the Palmyra Kiwanis Club.
Harper reviewed the 80th annual Tony Lenzini Tournament, during which Palmyra had both teams play in the championship games with Van Far winning the boy’s bracket and Canton winning the girl’s bracket.
The tournament had good crowds, Harper said, and the district was able to cover all expenses and give payouts to all participating teams.
The board took no action on the transformer bids. There are two bids still out, and the board is going to wait until all bids are in before accepting a transformer bid.
It was noted School Board Appreciation Week will be held on the Week of March 5-11.
In other business, the board hired Travis Rice as a custodian at the high school, and accepted the resignation of Dawn Nierman.