Early childhood tuition hikes approved by Mehlville board

Goals, mission statement set by board or school district’s Finance Committee

By BURKE WASSON

Beginning with the 2009-2010 school year, Mehlville School District parents who use the district’s early childhood services will have to pay more.

The Board of Education last week approved early childhood tuition hikes ranging from 7.5 percent to 14 percent, according to Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Brian Lane. The increase will generate an additional $25,000 in annual revenue.

The early childhood tuition increase comes after school-board members in December approved a roughly $200 tuition increase for all-day kindergarten.

Full-day kindergarten tuition will rise in the 2009-2010 school year to $2,200 per year from its current annual level of $2,006. The 9.7-percent increase in all-day kindergarten tuition is expected to generate an estimated $57,000 of additional revenue in the next school year.

Tuition rates for early childhood and all-day kindergarten had not been raised for three years.

Lane told board members that 2007-2008 was the first school year in which early childhood tuition revenue did not cover all salaries for early childhood teachers.

“That’s particularly concerning because those salaries are heavily subsidized by an early childhood/special ed grant where, for instance, let’s say you have a $40,000 teacher salary paid out of that grant,” he said. “Well, those aren’t all special-education students being serviced in that room. It’s a mainstream classroom.

“So you might have eight special-ed students and eight tuition-paid students. And that’s why we’ve been able to offer such competitive rates even though we do have very highly qualified teachers with master’s degrees and so forth that a lot of other districts can’t offer because it is being subsidized so much from the early childhood/special education grant.”

To better manage its finances, the board also recently approved goals and a mission statement for the district’s Finance Committee, a team of 10 community members with backgrounds in financial expertise.

The finance committee is represented by 10 community members and includes a number of certified public accountants, or CPAs.

The committee is headed by Ernst & Young CPA Charles Fischer, who serves as chairman. Retired SBC/AT&T Budget Manager Lavon Monk serves as vice chairman while St. Louis County Assistant Treasurer Cindy Williams serves as secretary.

The committee also includes: Buerkle Middle School Assistant Principal Ross Bullington; Mehlville School District Assistant Accounting Manager William Klemm; Surgical Synergies Inc. CPA and Vice President/Controller Ken Kolwych; retired National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Budget Officer Linda Mooy, who is a candidate in the April Board of Education election; CPA Daniel O’Connell; and Midwest BankCentre Assistant to the Regional President Sue Weber.

The committee’s stated mission is to “… provide information and guidance to the Board of Education and other relevant committees on a continuing basis regarding both current and long-term capital and operating decisions of the district while recognizing that we are an important liaison to the larger Mehlville community on matters of financial significance.”

The Finance Committee’s goals are:

• Develop an understanding of the operational flow of revenues and expenditures of the district.

• Review projections of operating revenues and expenses for the next three to five years. Evaluate major assumptions for future scenarios.

• Review the format and structure of the financial forecasting model while recommending and evaluating changes to improve the accuracy of the projections.

Noble recently spoke highly of the committee members and credited Chief Financial Officer Noel Knobloch for establishing a strong rapport with the committee.

“Most of these people are highly competent in the area of finance,” Noble said. “I think it’s something that would probably intimidate some people … (Knobloch) relates very well to them because of his past experience. So I just think they’ve got a rapport that is good for our district, and a lot of that is to Noel’s credit.”