Discussions between the county's three school systems over how to divide funds from the SK Battery plant in Commerce have not been resolved, according to Commerce superintendent Joy Tolbert.

During a budget discussion at the Commerce Board of Education meeting July 13, Tolbert said she had informed the Jefferson City and Jackson County School Systems that Commerce isn't interested in a revision of an existing shared tax agreement for the property where SK is being built.

Tolbert also again outlined to the board that the Commerce School System will be hurt financially from the deal the county made with SK. Rather than paying regular property taxes, SK will make "payments in lieu of taxes" (PILOT) on a sliding scale over the next 20 years. But since the huge value of SK will be added to the city's tax digest, Commerce will, on paper, become a "wealthy" school system. Because of that, it will lose some state funding it has been receiving.

The PILOT payments won't be enough to offset that loss. Tolbert said that around the year 2025, the system will need extra funding to make up for that loss in state money. Between now and then, the system will bank the SK PILOT payments so it will have those funds on hand when needed, she said.

Meanwhile, exactly how the PILOT payments will be split between the school systems remains unclear. Commerce received its first SK payment in may for $260,000, Tolbert said. Next May, that amount should be around $1 million.


Also on July 13, the BOE reviewed a draft of its FY2021 budget. The budget projects the system will have to use some of its reserves to make ends meet.

The board will have hearings on the budget on July 27 and Aug. 10 with final action expected on Aug. 10.

Local taxes will make up $3.4 million of the proposed $15.6 million budget. The millage rate has not been set yet pending a final tax digest in the fall.

Quality Basic Education (QBE) funds are estimated to bring in close to $11.5 million in revenue in FY2021. ELOST is estimated to account for at least $1.3 million and the state's equalization grant is estimated to bring in $1.8 million in revenue.

Transportation, school food services, nursing, and state and federal programs account for the remaining operating revenue for the 2021 fiscal year.

The bulk of the expenses for FY2021 is attributed to instructional cost associated with salaries for teachers, paraprofessionals and instructional material with a proposed budget of approximately $11 million.

Expenses for school and general administration, including salaries for principals, assistant principals, clerical employees, board members, superintendent, bus drivers and related expenses, account for $1.8 million.

Pupil services, including athletic supplements, nurses, travel, supplies and computer equipment will total an estimated $737,000 and maintenance and operation expenses make up $1.4 million.

The proposed budget will include five less days on the amended calendar for employee work days.


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