Carthage schools have a unique chance to do something with its budget that no other school district in Missouri has.

Carthage schools have a unique chance to do something with its budget that no other school district in Missouri has.
Gov. Jay Nixon last week signed a bill sponsored by State Sen. Ron Richard and State Rep. Tom Flanigan that will allow it to transfer funds from its general operating fund to the capital improvements fund to pay for projects geared toward safety and security around the district.
Carthage School Superintendent Blaine Henningsen said the state law, which singles out Carthage for this opportunity, gives the district until the end of this fiscal year, June 30, 2015, to decide how much money it wants to move.
The law also mandates that the district maintain an unallocated fund balance of 20 percent of its budget. The district finished the fiscal year that ended on June 30 with an unallocated fund balance of about 35 percent, and Henningsen said even without the transfer, the district anticipated spending some of that fund balance and leaving about 28 percent in its fund balance on June 30, 2014
Henningsen said the district won't decide how much it will transfer until it knows how much revenue it will receive from the state and other sources.
"Our budget is about $46 million so we have to keep about $10 million or $11 million on hand as carryover, or a rainy day fund, and we respect that," Henningsen said. "We're still waiting to learn how much the Governor will withhold statewide so we don't know how much we'll be able to transfer, and we won't know until close to the end of the fiscal year. But we're hoping to transfer about $2 million."
Nixon has already announced that he's withholding a portion of the money appropriated to schools across the state pending the outcome of the veto session in September when state lawmakers meet to consider whether to override the Governor and push into law some sales tax exemptions and other bills.

Spending limits
This new law, which amends the state law governing how schools can spend their budgets, provided only the Carthage School District with this one-time exemption. The exemption allows the district to move money it had saved in its general operating fund over the years to its capital improvements fund, which pays for construction projects.
Henningsen said the district can only use the transfer money for safety and security enhancements, so officials are looking at projects that would qualify under that standard.
One big project will be a traffic signal at the intersection of County Route HH (Fir Road) and Chapel Road, where the district will build its new school for fourth and fifth graders in the next couple of years.
"That's a requirement we'll have to pay for," Henningsen said. "We're also building a tornado safe room at the fourth and fifth grade center that can house between 800 and 1,000 people. We have a list of safety and security projects and this is a one-time deal so we want to make sure we do this right."

Stretching resources
This money will help stretch the $18 million the district received from bonds approved by voters in April for school construction projects.
In addition to an entirely new school at Chapel Road and HH, the district is planning to expand the current Carthage Middle School to convert it into the Carthage Junior High.
Construction at the Middle School will include building a new cafeteria, a new library and media center, 11 new classrooms, a new gymnasium that will double as a tornado safe room and other improvements.
Henningsen said the district plans to announce a naming rights program for the fourth and fifth grade school similar to the naming rights program that has raised nearly $1 million for the construction of the new early childhood education center on Fairview Avenue.
"We hope to have folks we can partner with, like for the early childhood center, to stretch the resources we have," Henningsen said. "We will be challenged and we'll feel like we're spinning a lot of plates, but we've had this opportunity presented to us and we hope to take advantage of it."