R-3 doing away with district-issued cell phones; meal prices going up

The Platte County R-3 School District will stop providing cell phones for administrative, technology and maintenance staff at the end of this month.

At a Thursday, June 15 meeting, the Platte County Board of Education unanimously voted to end the practice of district-issued cell phones and agreeing to offer a $65 per month stipend to the same individuals. The district said financial and legal concerns prompted the action.

The $65 per month will be issued to individuals “to reimburse for business related expenses associated with their specific role and duties with the district.”

Currently, the district provides cell phones to 47 individuals, according to documentation provided to the board ahead of the vote. The new reimbursement will cost the district about $36,000 per year.

Changes starting in July of 2014 decreased the reimbursements the district received for providing cell phones, leading to increased costs in recent years. In addition, the intermingling of personal and business communications on a district-provided device makes all use subject to the Sunshine Law and board policy compliance. 

“To protect the district and our employees, we feel it is best to limit exposure by moving away from district-provided devices,” the district documentation said.

The allowance amount is not intended to cover the entire cost of the employee’s cell phone but rather it to cover a portion of the phone bill. The allowance amount was arrived at by looking at the costs of plans in the market, what other districts currently give out give for allowance and what percentage of cell phone use was business vs. personal.

Employees will be allowed to retain their current device at no cost, and the district will no longer reimburse for cases or other phone accessories. The expectations of regular communication and accessibility will not change.

The district wants movement of plans to be completed before July 1 to ensure that phone numbers will not change. However, employees are not required to keep the same number.
In addition to the cell phone policy change, the board also approved a pair of items related to food service. The district plans to renovate the cafeteria in the Paxton Annex of the high school while also making slight increases to the cost of breakfast and lunch.

The board voted 5-0 to award a $43,000 bid from Bruner Contracting Company LLC for work on the Paxton Annex. Formerly known as Paxton Elementary, the district expanded the high school into the building for this past school year and used the current kitchen to help better accommodate food service for the expanding high school population.

This project will provide “improved space” so workers can cook and prepare food, reducing the amount prepared elsewhere in the high school and moved daily to Paxton. This will include improved ventilation for equipment, while also addressing health department concerns (food prep room temperature, hand wash stations and student flow).

The district also plans to improve security with an added retracting grate and overhead door so the area doesn’t have to remain open at all times.

An analysis of the food service performance also showed a building deficit, leading staff to recommend a price increase to try and generate enough revenue to pay for costs.

Documentation provided to the board showed a year end net of -$39,516 after the 2012-13 school year had increased to a year-end net of -$197,214 after 2015-16.

The current year-end net is not known at this time.

Cost associated with food service have gone up since the enactment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which is a federal government provision that requires school food authorities participating in the National School Lunch Program to ensure the same level of support for lunches served to students who are not eligible for free or reduced price lunches (paid lunches) as they are for lunches served to students eligible for free lunches. This is done in an effort to make sure schools have funding available to support serving nutritious meals to all students.

Based on analysis, Platte County plans to increase the price of all elementary and secondary breakfast meals by 10 cents and increase elementary and secondary lunch prices by 20 cents for the 2017-2018 school year. Adult breakfast and lunch meals will go up by 25 cents.

Meal prices will look like this for the upcoming school year:

Breakfast (K-5) $1.55

Breakfast (6-12) $1.55

Lunch (K-5) $2.25

Lunch (6-12) $2.35

Breakfast (Adult) $1.85

Lunch (Adult) $2.50