Hyatt says five faculty positions to be cut due to election results
Gainesville superintendent Jeff Hyatt said he is “sorely disappointed” in the results of the April 2 general municipal election in which voters turned down the school district’s two financial proposals – one for facility improvements and one for building a new gymnasium.
Monday, he expressed some of the frustration he shares with other Gainesville school district supporters.
“It’s very disappointing for current and future students,” he said. “When influential community leaders and local business owners who do business with the school don’t support the students of the district, it is very concerning for the future.”
Due to funding needs around the district, “we have reduced our teaching staff by five positions for next year,” Hyatt said. “We will look for more cuts to take place going forward. Those funds will be diverted to take care of the crucial building needs.”
Making improvements and repairs around the district with current funds means “we are going to consider drawing our balances down to a concerning 15 percent,” Hyatt said. “Never in my 16-year tenure as a superintendent have I taken a school district’s balances below 18 percent. Unfortunately, we have pressing needs ranging from leaking roofs to safety concerns that have to be addressed.”
Gainesville voters’ continued refusal to approve financial proposals is both frustrating and puzzling, Hyatt said.
“Gainesville R-5 is one of only 40 school districts in the state, out of 520 districts, that are operating at the base tax minimum of $2.75,” he said. “It’s one of only 23 districts in the state that do not have a debt levy. And out of 27 school districts in southern Missouri that ran a tax levy or bond issue on the April 2 ballot, only Gainesville’s two issues and one other failed. Bakersfield and Dora have supported their school districts on issue after issue. Can someone please tell us what we need to do to get that kind of support for the students of Gainesville?”
He acknowledged that some voters say they would vote for a new high school / junior high building versus updating the current 50-plus-year-old facility. But a new building “would need at least a $1.25 tax increase or bond issue,” Hyatt said. “Do we really think that would have a chance of passing when a 47-cent increase to update the current facility has failed three times? No way!”
He noted that the school continues to make improvements by applying for grants and asking for private donations that support specific objectives, including the current remodeling of the high school / junior high library, a project described in a Feb. 27 Times story (“Gainesville school’s library space evolves as learning lab / media center”). Work began on the remodeling project with a $10,000 donation from the Leroy and Ovia Marie McGinnis Fund in the Ozark County Community Foundation. The school was notified last week that its application for an additional $20,000 Coover grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks has also been approved for the learning lab / media center project.
But, while these grant-funded projects are welcomed improvements, “we do not have any other way to raise operating funds besides a bond or tax levy increase. We’re not like some entities that can vote in a sales tax by a board’s decision. We have one option, and it requires a vote of the people,” he said.
Hyatt expressed admiration for the school’s students and staff that “make this a great environment. Academically, we are as competitive as any southwest Missouri school. Wouldn’t it be awesome for future Bulldogs to have a better environment, like every other school district in southwest Missouri?”