Hannibal School Board works through district’s financial struggle

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Susan Johnson discusses navigating the $3.3 million deficit at Wednesday night’s Hannibal School Board meeting. Photo by Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — After reporting a $3.3 million budget deficit last week, the Hannibal Pubic School District reported they are closely monitoring expenses for the remainder of this year and looking at cost savings for next year.

READ: Superintendent explains how Hannibal School District wound up with $3.3 million budget deficit.

At the Hannibal School Board meeting on Wednesday night, Superintendent Susan Johnson, told the board members they have reduced expenditures for the 2024-2025 school year by more than $1.1 million.

Johnson said the district is working to reduce staff next year through attrition. Johnson said each vacant position has been evaluated on whether it’s necessary to fill. For vacant positions that must be filled, the district will also look at consolidation by certifying existing staff members who can fill certain positions.

She said maintaining reasonably sized classrooms is one of the main considerations on whether position will be retained.

The district’s goal is to have kindergarten through second grade at 20 students or less, and third through fifth grade a little more than 20 students. High school and middle school classes are preferred to be 25 students or less.

”We are trying very hard and have been successful at not having to lose staff,” she said. “Our class sizes are good. We’ve maintained quality services to our students by doing this, and we’ve really tried to impact our staff and the needs they have as minimally as possible.”

One tech position that will be vacated by a long-time employee next year, will be rebranded as a data entry clerk. The position will have more clerical duties, which will reduce the salary by about half.

The parent-pay daycare program for employees, housed at Stowell Elementary, will likely see a tuition increase. She said they are also using local funds to help pay for the program.

Johnson reported the program has cost $130,000 since it was reinstated in August 2022, which she said has mostly been for cost of salaries.

“It’s a great retention and recruitment opportunity for our staff and anyone who has small kids knows it’s hard to find quality childcare and our parent pay program is extremely popular,” Johnson said.

Johnson also addressed the school’s purchase of a 2023 Jeep Wagoneer, which was approved by the school board in September. Johnson said although the decision is frequently questioned, the Wagoneer was a cost savings purchase. The Wagoneer has 16,461 miles on it.

Instead of paying employee mileage at 59 cents per mile for professional development, or fuel and a bus driver salary for small group trips, they can use the Wagoneer.

Johnson said without the vehicle, they would have had to pay out $9,729.69 to staff and an additional $21,893.27 for small group travel, which saved a total of $31,622.96.

During the comment section the explanation of the financial issues were challenged by one public speaker. Anna Lemon called for a state audit of the school’s finances.

Lemon said in December that a previous audit mentioned a need for “better oversight with journal entries” and asked about a specific account.

”I think there’s more to the story and that a state audit is definitely going to help the community gain trust back with this district,” she said. ”Did you guys discuss that $900,000 was found in an account that nobody knew about?”

Blane Mundle, president of the school board, clarified with Ted Sampson, chief operating officer, and then informed Lemon that board members knew about the account and it is not “able to be zeroed out.”

When later asked for a comment, Johnson said she was not able to comment without more information regarding the account and would provide more details at a later date.

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