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The Lake News Online
  • Health escrow worries persist at School of the Osage

  • Health care costs continue to be worrisome for the School of the Osage.

    That was part of the budget message presented by Superintendent Brent Depeé at the regular board of education meeting recently. The school district has battled skyrocketing health care costs while premiums have failed to keep up with medical expenses.
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  • Health care costs continue to be worrisome for the School of the Osage.
    That was part of the budget message presented by Superintendent Brent Depeé at the regular board of education meeting recently. The school district has battled skyrocketing health care costs while premiums have failed to keep up with medical expenses.
    “Although we have made strides to decrease our medical and prescription costs, our escrow account continues to be underfunded,” Depeé told the board.
    For the fourth consecutive year, the board has had to subsidize the self-funded health escrow account by transferring $500,000 from other areas of the budget.
    “In the board’s efforts to continue to give our employees an excellent benefits package, we continue to have one of the best and lowest monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses in all of Missouri public education,” he noted.
    To help maintain the health escrow’s solvency, the Health Insurance Committee voted to increase the board-paid monthly premiums by $30 to $415. The maximum out-of-pocket cost will also increase from $1,200 to $2,400.
    Depeé reported to the board that the health escrow account as of May 31 was $334,000, compared to $331,000 a year ago.
    “That’s not where we’d like to see it,” he said. “We’re consuming more than we’re putting into the pot.”
    Shaky economy
    The state of the economy continues to send mixed signals, Depeé said, and the state continues to be unable to fully fund the current foundation formula. School of the Osage, which relies heavily on local funding, continues to receive less money from the state each year.
    Last year, the district received a 9 percent cut in federal dollars and Depeé expects those cuts to continue.
    Despite the uncertainty in revenue, Depeé said it is important “that we attract and retain the very best teachers and administrators possible.”
    The board recently increased the salary schedule for both certified (teachers) and classified staff (secretaries, janitorial, etc.) by about 2.5 percent.
    Every employee received a one-year service step, and the certified salary scheduled was increased by $600 for a new base salary for beginning teachers of $35,850. Classified employees received a one-year increase in step on the salary schedule plus an increase in the hourly wage.
    Eighty percent of the budget goes for salaries and benefits.
    Technology focus
    The board and administration also recognize that for School of the Osage students to compete globally for jobs, the district must increase its offerings in technology, according to Depeé.
    The first step is to update and maintain district servers at a cost of $38,000 per year for three years. The next step is to create a wireless network in all four buildings. After completion of the Heritage Building, that school will be completely wireless.
    Page 2 of 2 - Depeé estimates it will cost about $350,000 to ensure a seamless wireless system in all buildings. Half of that project will be done this year with the balance next summer.
    The final step in the technology expansion is to conduct pilot programs in each building to determine age-appropriate equipment and curriculum. In addition, the district will conduct four device pilot programs per building.
    The board also approved $123,000 for all new computers in the Heritage Building.

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