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Cellular phone costs total nearly $26,500 for Mehlville School District in 2002-2003

The Mehlville School District spent nearly $26,500 for cellular phones during the 2002-2003 year, but has no specific policy relating to reimbursement for or providing such phones to employees.

During a Board of Education meeting last week, Vice President Matthew Chellis requested that administrators review cellular phone and travel reimbursement policies.

"It doesn't have to be done in January, but as soon as it could be looked at in a thoughtful and complete manner, it would be helpful," Chellis told Superintendent Tim Ricker during the Dec. 15 meeting.

The school district, which uses Cingular Wireless as its cellular phone provider, supplied 24 cell phones to employees during the 2002-2003 academic year, while also reimbursing three employees who used phones on a non-Cingular Wireless plan, according to information provided to district resident Dan Fowler by Randy Charles, assistant superintendent for finance and the district's chief financial officer.

The cost of the cellular phones totaled $26,474.10.

"The district uses the procedure established under 600.100 of the procedural manual that is correlated to the old district policy manual last revised in November 1996 and replaced with a new policy manual in January 1998,'' Charles wrote in an e-mail to Fowler. "There is no policy specifically related to reimbursement for or provision of cell phones in the new policy manual.''

During the meeting, Ricker said he and other administrators would look into the policy for Chellis, but he noted, "We have no policies related to cell phone usage."

The superintendent told board members that the basis of existing procedures on travel reimbursement hinges on an old district policy manual that was last revised in 1996.

Board members voted to transform Mehlville policies to new Missouri School Board Association policies in 1998.

However, as previously reported in the Call, former Superintendent John Cary told board members on Jan. 5, 1998, during a special meeting, that adopting the MSBA policies would not change the district's existing policies, but update the policy book to ensure compliance with legal requirements.

"The intent is not to change policy, but update good policy," Cary told board members during a Dec. 15, 1997, meeting.

President Cindy Christopher suggested attaching a review of cell phone and reimbursement policies to a current review of other district policies that will be discussed in February or March.

"Whatever works," Chellis responded.

Along with cell phone and reimbursement policies, board members also are scheduled to evaluate nepotism or conflict of interest, hiring, discipline and other district policies this spring.

Ricker later told the Call that despite the district's lack of a cell phone policy, he said he will try to supply information comparing Mehlville's procedures to other nearby districts.

In another matter Dec. 15, board members voted unanimously to give authorization to Charles to execute a $750,000 loan with Midwest BankCentre, if needed, so the district can support its payroll expenses during winter break.

To date, the district has received two property tax payments from the county that total $2.17 million — about $16 million less than what the district had received this time in 2002.

The county sent tax bills out two weeks later this year, according to Charles, because it had to calculate four different tax rates for governmental entities and it was learning a new computer system.

If the district does not receive any additional property tax payments from the county by Dec. 22, board members authorized Charles to execute a sixth round of tax anticipation notes to keep the district afloat until more significant payments arrive in January.

Board members also altered future meeting dates.

Though board members voted this summer to begin meeting Thursday evenings instead of Monday evenings, board members unanimously voted to begin meeting on Tuesday evenings this spring.

The change was made after board members realized board member Richard Huddleston had a work conflict on Thursday evenings.

"I need a little help," Huddleston told board members, noting he had to attend a mandatory accounting class on Thursday evenings. "In my five years on the board, I think I have never missed a meeting and I don't intend to start now."

He suggested that the board continue to meet on Mondays as to not disrupt the schedule of the public or the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corp. committee, which also meets on Tuesdays.

But Christopher said that the VICC committee is a committee of the board, which could more easily be changed.

Chellis also had conflicts with meetings on Monday or Wednesday evenings.

Christopher and board member Rita Diekemper suggested meeting on Tuesdays.

Board members agreed to meet Monday, Jan. 12, but planned on meeting on Tuesday evenings thereafter.

In another matter, the board approved a 3.5 percent salary increase for Cindy Lynch, assistant superintendent of student services, giving her a second increase during the 2003-2004 academic year and raising her annual pay to $100,806.11.

Lynch recently received an educational specialist degree, which accounted for the second raise, according to Patrick Wallace, the Mehlville's school/community relations director.

Lynch's salary has increased more than $20,000 since the 1999-2000 school year when she served as the executive director of pupil personnel services and earned $80,000.

During the 2000-2001 school year, she was promoted to her current position and earned $83,455 and then was paid $89,000 during the 2001-2002 school year.

Board members approved a 4 percent salary increase for Lynch last June raising her previous $93,183 salary from the 2002-2003 school year to $96,928.96.

Also during the Dec. 15 meeting, board members:

• Approved the beginning and ending dates for the 2004-2005 school calendar. They also approved the beginning dates for the 2005-2006 school year, but will approve the ending date for the 2005-2006 school year at a future meeting.

• Did not consider bids for construction at Oakville Middle School as scheduled because administrators did not have enough information for board members. The board is scheduled to consider the bids at its next meeting Jan. 12.

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