Neosho schools discusses TIF, approves budget and ESSER spending

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

The Neosho Board of Education met on Jun. 21 for their monthly meeting discussing the district’s redevelopment plan for the Neosho Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District and approving a multitude of action items.

The redevelopment plan for the Neosho TIF district was adopted by the city of Neosho on Jul. 6, 1999. It called for three redevelopment areas that weren’t contiguous but had similar needs for redevelopment.

Identified as the North, Center and South TIF Districts with the North District defined as the area along Highway 86 from the Old Seneca road to Highway 71, the South District defined a the area along Highway 71 south from the intersection of Highway 60 and Alternate 71 to new Highway 71 and the Center District defined as extended east and west from the intersection of Highway 71-60-71A.

The North TIF District, the topic of conversation, calls for the extension of utilities northward along Highway 86 to areas within city limits that are not currently served and to relocate Old Seneca Road at the intersection of Highway 86 and Harmony Street so as to create a straight alignment with Harmony Street.

The length of the TIF was 23 years from Jul. 6, 1999 or when all projects were completed, which ever came first.

“My concern is,” said Board President Jonathan Russell “at one time (the board) was going to end the TIF, return that money to the different entities, it still hasn’t happened. My question was, how is that money still there? Why hasn’t it happened?”

“My question was,” added Russell. “do (we) want to get a legal opinion from our attorney?”

Russell told city council member Richard Davidson and city manager David Kennedy, who were in attendance at the meeting, that he wanted to make it clear he supported the project and didn’t want to fight it but wanted to know at what point the TIF would be terminated.

Board member Stuart Puckett said it would be good to develop some clarity on the issue and what the plans were while board member Jenny Spiva suggested that they could amend the TIF if the city wanted to add another portion to the project.

“Nobody up here opposes the project,” said Russell. “we want that project. Its good for the community and the school district. We just want to know, is the TIF, at some point, going to end? Because when it was supposed to end before it didn’t.”

Davidson and Kennedy both told the board the TIF still had an end date, that they were there in a listening capacity to learn and suggested passing on any of those concerns to Superintendent Dr. Jim Cummins so the city could answer them. But Davidson did add in a caveat.  

“We’ve got contracts out on this, this project has been in the public venue for about a year, if there are questions, we need to ask those questions because this is close to starting,” said Davidson.

Action Items

2021-22 Budget: The board needs to have an adopted budget before it can write a check for the 2021-22 fiscal year. The preliminary 2021-22 budget that was approved at the meeting allows the district to pay bills in the new fiscal year.

The beginning balance came to $12,113,716; the total revenue came to $70,823,397 while total expenditures equaled $66,811,436 with a net increase in the fund balance coming to $4,011,961, meaning the ending balance came to $16,125,677

It will need to be amended when decisions are made pertaining to Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) expenditures and a full budget will be presented in July or August.

Another change Cummins noted from last year moving forward would be trying to separate ESSER funds from regular funds throughout the year.

“Some of it will be additional spending, some of it will be supplanting,” said Cummins pointing out line 2542, with the operations and maintenance (OM) from fund 1 totaling $1,945,679 and the line below with ESSER totaling $2,000,000. “that is a supplant issue. What I mean by that is we will be claiming $2 million of ESSER money. What I’m showing you there is, OM would have a budget $3.9 million, $2 million of that were going to claim from ESSER. That’s how we get the money into our reserves for the capital transfers.”

Under expenditures, Cummins pointed out two more ESSER amounts of $327,089 and $131,313 of additional money added to the budget for the reading interventionists, a stipulation of the latest round of ESSER funds that said a percentage of the funds had to go towards reading loss.

Cummins touched on the local revenues, totaling $39,474,125 across all funds, that represented a 103.98% increase from last year but let the board know all of the money coming into the building projects skewed the stats a bit and that taking out that money made it more comparable to past years.

Also addressing the 139% increase, to $880,000, for summer school, Cummins said last year was a scaled back summer school with the pandemic.

“What we paid for summer school in 2018-19,” said Cummins. “We paid for (summer school provider) Summer Journey and we didn’t have anything in last years because the payroll got moved into the current year and next year, we’re not looking for Summer Journey until this coming July. If you look at two years ago, $874,460, that is what you would compare it to.”

“Based upon this estimation, that leaves our reserves at about 16%,” said Cummins. “Much improved over our initial discussions about that.”

The 2021-22 preliminary budget for the Neosho School District.
The 2021-22 preliminary budget for the Neosho School District.
The 2021-22 preliminary budget for the Neosho School District.

ESSER spending: The board approved the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) expenditure request for the 2022 fiscal year totaling $3,542,931 with the list of items that were discussed at the board’s annual retreat held at the beginning of June.

At the annual retreat, Cummins touched on the survey to the board, how he had reached out to the principals and other administration about the money the district has from the ESSER plans at that time with plans to reach out to the rest of the district and parents as well.

“I’ve gotten responses from 50 some staff members, I’ll share those with you over the coming weeks,” said Cummins at the Jun. 21 meeting “We’re getting ready to release that same survey to the community, we’ll see what input they have.”

Cummins went over the expenditure list with the board before it was approved, telling them he had taken out the things the district had already done while adding he would continue to bring the board more items that the district would like approval on as they build out ideas and plans with input from the survey.

Currently, the district has $4,544,673 in available ESSER II and III funds.

A total of $13,702,963 will be available once the third installment is appropriated, with 2021 fiscal year expenditures ($1,014,359), 2022 fiscal year expenditures ($3,542,931) 2023 fiscal year commitments ($601,000) and a reserve allocation ($4,000,000) giving the district $4,544,673 to work with.

ESSER expenditures discussed, and approved, at the Jun. 21 board meeting.