The state’s school funding bill will change things for Peabody-Burns schools and allow the board of education different options to complete projects on their wish list without a bond.
Discussion was held among board members about options to raise property taxes. The recent bill increased the cap for local property taxes from 30 percent to 33 percent of the general fund after a public mail-in ballot.
Superintendent Ron Traxson said this option should not only make up for the budget shortfall, but should also allow the district around $180,000 in new money to complete projects. However, Traxson warned if enrollment and state aid per student continues to decline, raising property taxes would only allow the district to maintain its current budget.
Taxes for residents would stay the same this year, but decrease next year due to the payment of a bond issue and increased state aid. Traxson said the repayment of the bond allow the district to raise more money and still allow for a substantial tax break for residents.
If the governor signs the school funding bill, the district will receive a tax decrease equivalent to $51,000, on top of the drop from the paid off bond of about $300,000.
The bill will not bring in any new money to the district, but will instead act like a tax cut, which is why the board is looking at options to raise taxes.
Board President Bruce Burke was frustrated with the bill saying it put more burden on local taxpayers because it forces districts to raise taxes in order to get new funding.
“We can’t keep raising taxes; sooner or later something has got to give,” he said. “The government seems to be shifting taxes to local government and Topeka seems to be OK with it.”
Traxson said he understands the board is in a tough place, but said something needs to be done at the very least to help curb the budget shortfall, he says comes from inadequate state funding and declining enrollment.
“If we had 50 more kids in the district, this would look totally different,” he said. “This may just keep us afloat; we may still have to make cuts. The state still needs to set things straight. This is only the beginning of what they need to address.”
The board agreed that something needed to be done to budget for major facility repairs and other projects. Because of his background as police chief, Burke is particularly concerned with the schools’ security. He has undergone training for situations at schools, and said Peabody-Burns is drastically unprepared.
“The day is coming when doors to the school will be locked all day and someone in the office will have to buzz people in and people will walk through metal detectors to attend sporting events,” he said. “We’re not there yet, but those days are coming fast and we need to be prepared. Safety should be a top priority.”
If the tax increase passes, security is one of the things that would be budgeted for as well as track repair, facility repair, and replacing outdated playground equipment.
“This would allow us to budget those things over a span of five or so years, unlike a bond issue where we would get a large sum of money and the list would be completed in a year or so,” Traxson said. “This way we have more flexibility say if a boiler or something goes bad and we have to come up with a major amount to replace it. This way we can take care of those things and not have to cut from the budget.”
Traxson said the search for someone to fill treasurer Patti Gaines position is going well.
Several qualified candidates have applied for the position. Many have business and school background, Traxson said.
He will narrow down the candidates over the next few weeks and hopes to begin interviewing once that process is complete.
Longtime computer lab teacher and title 1 paraprofessional Sue Hoffmann is resigning after 20 years with the district. Her husband is being transferred to a new job location with Westar. Her resignation will be effective upon the conclusion of this year’s teaching duties.
In other business:
- The board agreed to trade the schools golf cart to Peabody Country Club in exchange for golf team fees.
- The board agreed to spend $15,977 on a new integrated math curriculum for grades sixth through 12.
- The board approved the calendar for the 2014-15 school year. Teachers would begin Aug. 18 and work 176 days ending on May 15. Students will start classes Aug. 20 and attend school 161 days ending May 14. The year will be two days shorter than 2013-14.
- Lori Soo Hoo from Parents as Teachers gave a presentation about the program. The board agreed to fund the program for another year for the amount of $3,580. Currently the program is assisting 10 families and 13 children in the district.
- Ashlee Gann, director of Families and Communities Together, gave a presentation.
- Board members Shayla Clark and Anthony Zappone were nominated to hand out eight-grade diplomas on graduation day. Clark and Travis Foth will hand out high school diplomas.
- The board agreed pay dues to continue its membership with Kansas Association of School Boards and Schools for Fair Funding.
- The board agreed to offer summer school from June 2 to 20.
- The board met in executive session for 15 minutes to discuss certified personnel. After returning to open session the board approved the list of certified teachers.
- The board met in executive session for 15 minutes to discuss certified personnel pertaining to a proposed math curriculum, no action was taken upon return to open session.
- The board met in executive session for 5 minutes to discuss teacher negotiations. No action was taken.
- The board met in executive session for 15 minutes with concerned parents and building administrators for 18 minutes to discuss issues pertaining to an student or staff member, then with building administrators and board only for another 8 minutes. No action was taken.