The time for the St. Clair R-XIII School District Board of Education to conduct paperless meetings is soon, but it will attempt to do so without taking a dime out of its budget.

Last month during its September meeting, the seven-member board unanimously voted to expand an existing online system used by the district to provide needed information to board members and others via electronic means. The efforts could start with either this month’s or next month’s meeting.

The October meeting is scheduled for Thursday, the 18th.

Superintendent Mike Murphy had presented board members an option in August to utilize a program called BoardDocs. However, depending on the version, costs could have run as high as $14,000 to get it up and running and then at least $9,000 a year thereafter to stay there.

In September, Murphy and school board members rediscussed the BoardDocs option, which is advertised as a “paperless governance solution” to conducting board meetings. August’s discussion included a video conference presentation by company representative Merritt Brooks, who showed the administration team and school board members what the district would get if it opted to purchase and use the program.

“As board members, you have been pretty adamant about moving toward some kind of electronic means for board meetings,” Murphy said at the beginning of the August presentation.

As the talk continued in September, board members were impressed with the program but concerned about the costs.

“I think everyone liked BoardDocs, especially the version with the multiple extras,” board President Dave Berkel said. “The only question with it is the price.”

BoardDocs offers two options — the $9,000 a year program for the ProDocs, or advanced, version and the LT or standard version that carries a $2,700 annual price tag. Earlier discussion also included purchasing electronic devices for board members to use during the meetings.

“I’m in support of paperless documents, but I can live with the environment we currently have,” board member Mike Drewel said. “I can’t really see putting a $9,000 a year expense on the books right now.”

Fellow board member Dave Hinson agreed by saying he thinks the district can use the system already in place by expanding its paperless options.

Currently, board secretary Joyce Strothcamp puts together paper board packets each month and distributes them to officials before each meeting. The included documents are placed on the district’s website behind an access wall that gives the board and the administration access. The agenda is placed online where the general public can view it.

Murphy said preparing the packets can take hours of Strothcamp’s time as well as using at least a ream of paper.

During the board meeting, Strothcamp and Murphy said that each document distributed will have the availability to be viewed by board members during the meeting if they bring a computer or tablet. Each board member also could print his or her own copies and bring them to the meeting.

“We will just have to explore what works best,” Murphy said.

Berkel then said the BoardDocs decision can be tabled until the board sees how things go for the next couple of months with the expansion of its current system.

On Monday, Murphy told The Missourian he is still working out the best way to make a paperless option work for the seven-member board. He said it may take a month or two to work it out to the benefit of everyone involved.