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The Carthage Press
  • Legislation to let schools move money advancing in Jefferson City

  • The Carthage School District is moving to address more of the issues brought up in 2011 as part of the series of meetings held with residents known as Carthage 2020.
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  • The Carthage School District is moving to address more of the issues brought up in 2011 as part of the series of meetings held with residents known as Carthage 2020.
    At the monthly Eggs and Issues briefing held by the area Chambers of Commerce with state lawmakers, State Sen. Ron Richard said he's working on a bill that will allow school districts to more easily move money around in their separate funds, a bill that originated in Carthage.
    Richard said the bill will allow districts to spend money where they need it as long as they maintain the state mandated minimum reserve balance.
    "The Carthage School District came to me wanting to do a storm shelter and wanted to be able to move some funds from one fund to another as long as we kept the balances within the 21 percent," Richard said. "I think we'll try to make that statewide in case someone wants to move some balances around, as long as they keep the minimum balance, they could use it for some storm shelters."
    Carthage Superintendent Blaine Henningsen said the district currently has reserves in its unallocated fund balance of about 34 percent of its total budget, well over the approximately 20 percent that is required by the state for unexpected expenses.
    The district has a total of $13 million in its unallocated fund balance, which is in excess of $5 million more than than the state recommended reserves of about $7.9 million for the Carthage district.
    "We have a savings account built up," Henningsen said. "We're asking if we can use some of that savings to build tornado shelters at our elementary schools."
    He said state law allows districts to move seven percent of their fund balance reserves into a fund for capital improvements.
    The Carthage board already approved that move to build the new early childhood center, so it needs legislative approval for a one-time transfer of additional money to build tornado shelters at the five Carthage elementary schools.
    Henningsen said the Carthage 2020 meetings in 2010 and 201 identified tornado shelters as a priority after addressing the shortage of classrooms space.
    Henningsen said the FEMA grants used by the Webb City, Jasper and Avilla school districts to build community tornado safe rooms at those schools had dried up before Carthage had the money to take advantage of them.
    He said the Carthage High School on River Street and the Carthage Junior High on Main Street have spaces that can be used for tornado shelters. He said the new early childhood center under construction on Fairview Avenue and the proposed fourth and fifth grade center that would be built if voters approve an $18 million bond issue in April will include tornado safe rooms in their construction.
    Henningsen said the district wants to install tornado "bunkers" or concrete boxes similar to those at the temporary FEMA trailer complex on Missouri Highway 171 across from the Joplin Airport at each of the elementary schools in Carthage.
    Page 2 of 2 - Also, if the voters approve the bond issue in April, the district would be responsible for putting in a stoplight at Fir and Chapel roads to address added traffic at that intersection.
    "There are a whole lot of 'ifs' right now," Henningsen said. "If voters approve the bond issue and if this legislation passes in Jefferson City, then we can do these tornado safe rooms and stoplight. We estimate it will cost about $5 million to do the tornado bunkers and the stoplight."
    Richard said the legislation needed to allow the district to move the money around had been approved by the Senate Education Committee and would come up on the floor of the State Senate next week after lawmakers come back from Spring Break.
    Richard said the legislation would allow a districts to move the money for one year only. He said the State House would take up the legislation after the Senate voted on it, then it would have to go to the governor's desk for his signature.

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