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Knox County Board of Education Sets Tax Levy; Approves Mileage and Meal Reimbursements

By Crystal Howerton

A tax hearing to set the new tax levy was held before the regular August meeting of the Knox County Board of Education on Tuesday evening, August 21, 2007.
"The operating levy will be at 3.5866, a decrease from last year’s rate of 3.700," stated Superintendent D.J. Leverton.  "Our debt service levy will be at .2000.  We had no debt service levy last year.  The debt service levy is due to the $900,000 bond issue passed last spring." 
According to Supt. Leverton, the total levy 3.7866 is an increase from last year’s 3.700 due to the debt service levy, however, it is about .05 cents less than they had anticipated from information received. "The .20 cent debt service levy will allow us to pay off the bond three to five years sooner, depending on assessments," Supt. Leverton informed board members.  "It will also save the school district over $25,000 in interest payments."
School Board members voted to set the tax levy and adjourned the hearing prior to entering their regular meeting. 
In addition to written administrator’s reports, High School/Middle School Principal Andy Turgeon announced that MAP results have been posted to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website and the district met all areas of the No Child Left Behind Act. Turgeon said that he would further report on those scores during the next board meeting.
Elementary Principal Marty Strange stated that she was pleased that 75% of parents attended the elementary open house held Thursday evening, August 16, 2007.
Supt. Leverton reported on the status of the high school roof project stating that the project would be completed within the next three to five weeks, subject to the amount of rainfall in the coming weeks.
Supt. Leverton was asked by School Nurse Kathy Palmer to report on the recent improvements per recommendations by the School Wellness Committee during the May board meeting.  Changes include 25-minute lunch shifts in the high school, which is an increase of five minutes from the former 20-minute lunch shifts.  Prin. Strange added that teachers have been encouraged to have students do some type of physical activity such as walking, jumping jacks, push-ups, etc. if they are being withheld from recess as a disciplinary measure.  She also stated that the "stoplight" has been removed from the elementary cafeteria wall, as recommended by the committee for stress-related reasons.  Further, Supt. Leverton mentioned that they are working with Pepsi-Cola to allow only fruit juices, water and diet soda in the school pop machines.
Supt. Leverton reported that he had recently been in contact with MoDOT officials concerning a passing lane on Highway 6 at the school.  MoDOT officials have stated that the driveways of the school, Knox County Nursing Home and Jim Sears Technical Center hinder construction of a passing lane at this time, however, they recommend replacing the current yellow caution light at the entrance of the school driveway with a red, blinking light located further east.  Leverton explained that the new light would be off except for unloading times (in the mornings from approximately 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and again from 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon) when the light would flash rapidly during these increased areas of concern.  A reduced speed limit would accompany the light when flashing.  He said that the district would have control of the light so that it could be turned on at other times such as football games, etc.  Supt. Leverton estimates the cost of the new traffic light in the area of $6,000 to $8,000. Supt. Leverton will continue to look into this issue.
The 2007-08 District Assessment Plan given by Guidance Counselor Carolyn Primm was approved as presented.  She reported that Prin. Turgeon would be taking over assessments for K-12.  Changes to the 2007-08 Elementary and HS/MS Staff Handbooks were also approved as presented.
Supt. Leverton discussed proposed changes to mileage and meal reimbursements with school board members.  Having contacted superintendents in area districts, Supt. Leverton recommended that the current mileage reimbursement of .35 cents/mile be increased to  .39 cents/mile, which is approximately 80% percent of the current federal rate.  According to Supt. Leverton the current federal rate set in February 2007 is 48.5 cents/mile.  He recommends raising the district’s rate to 80% of the federal rate and continuing to increase that rate as the government does so. 
Leverton also recommended that staff receive meal reimbursements as was done in the past.  He recommended an allotted amount of $7.00 for breakfast, $10.00 for lunch and $13.00 for dinner, not to exceed $30 per day.  Board members approved both actions for mileage and meal reimbursements. 
Comments were made regarding the facilities and grounds report submitted by Transportation and Maintenance Director Steve Ramer.  Prin. Strange reported that she had heard positive comments from parents during the open house concerning the recent improvements to buildings and grounds.
Ramer discussed District Safety, mentioning that they are currently in the process of creating crisis backpacks which will include necessary items when in crisis, such as first aid, snacks, student rosters, etc.  Ramer included that Dollar General has been generous in locating backpacks for this project at a reasonable price and Edina Farm and Home has cooperated with the district in obtaining flashlights and batteries, as well.
Ramer reported that the high school parking lot should be completed the following day and then he would be meeting to discuss the curb removal and expansion of the elementary parking lot.  He also said that guardrails have been ordered for the area adjacent to the middle school building to be installed as they arrive. 
The 2007-08 Professional Development Committee (PDC) Plan presented by Joyce Delaney was approved as presented.  The PDC has a budget of $15,000 that has been broken down for use in mentoring, study groups, conferences and PDC expenses.
Supt. Leverton presented the 2006-07 Annual School Board Report (A.S.B.R.) to Board members, which was approved as presented.
Board members approved minor changes to the 2007-08 Extra Duty Pay Schedule recommended by Supt. Leverton.
Prin. Turgeon reported that he and Prin. Strange have applied for eMINTS (enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies) grants for high school math and fifth grade science to purchase software, laptops, etc.  He mentioned the one previously in Mr. Kottwitz’s sixth grade classroom that was successful.  According to Turgeon, the purpose of the eMINTS grant is to promote the incorporation of technological information into math and science classes.
Prior to adjournment, board members considered the co-op for middle school softball included on the agenda.  Supt. Leverton reported that he had been approached by the Brashear school district about the possibility of four Brashear female students participating in Knox County’s middle school softball team.  He explained that he had contacted MSHAA and that it was not a possibility for this season, as the deadline for MSHAA approval had already passed.  He recommended that board members discuss it with the community and consider it as a possibility for the 2008 softball season sometime in February.  Board members voted to table the issue until it has been researched further and revisit it at a later date.