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USD 398 Board of Education begins looking at cuts

Will consider staff cuts at special meeting

Staff writer

Following three executive sessions April 13 to discuss personnel totaling 80 minutes, USD 398 school board members approved the 2009-10 school calendar as written.

Prior to the executive sessions, district superintendent Rex Watson reviewed information from the state on revenue, expenditures, stimulus package funds, legislative decisions, and possible 2009-10 budget reductions.

Watson presented figures for cuts that will create a $77,749 savings.

“We looked at everything, every budget item, before looking at staff positions,” he said.

Adjusting the thermostat three degrees will save $6,800; insurance and upkeep on the former vocational agriculture/kitchen building at Burns cost the district $4,177 during the past year — the building will be put up for sale.

Other cuts include eliminating the bus route for junior high students after athletic practice. By juggling the daily schedule, junior high practice will be built into the school day. Slightly changing the bus routes will eliminate one regular route as well. The district will realize an $18,000 savings on these two cuts.

Also included is cancelation of an agreement with the Newton school district for vocational-technical education. The Head Start program also will be dropped, but the pre-kindergarten program will continue.

The board unanimously approved all of the cuts.

A meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday in the central office will include an executive session to discuss personnel, accept resignations, and authorize the resolutions of intent to non-renew. Following a motion and second to host the meeting, the board voted 6-1 in favor with Terry Eberhard opposed.

The legislature has not yet returned from recess to tackle the final numbers on school finance. No district has a handle on how much money will be available from the state.

According to Watson, the state already has recorded a shortfall for the current year because of tax revenues being down.

“People aren’t spending money so sales tax revenue is way off,” Watson said. “Others who are laid off are delaying or just not paying property taxes and income taxes.

“Until the state tells us what we will have to spend, it is a little tough to make responsible cuts, but that is what districts are trying to do.”

Watson said considering cuts in staff or programs is the toughest job before the school board.

“Looking at staff cuts is something we had hoped to avoid,” Watson said. “We are required by law to let the teachers know by May 1 if they will be offered a contract for the coming year.

“Right now there is no way to know for sure how many positions the district will have to offer. The board will have some hard decisions to make,” he said.

In a related move, Rhonda Loucks made a motion to direct the clerk to republish the 2008-09 budget to take advantage of an increase in state aid due to audited figures and fund changes. The increase will not increase taxes to district patrons. The budget hearing will be held at the beginning of the May meeting in the central office.

The board also approved changes to the end of the current school year as a cost cutting measure.

There will be no school May 8 although buses will run to pickup band students. The last day for seniors is May 13, and the rest of the students on May 14. A teacher workday is May 15 and May 18, 19, and 20 are in-service days. The final day for teachers is May 21.

In other business:

  • Payment of annual Kansas Association of School Boards dues and KASB legal assistance fund for the 2009-10 school year were approved. Also approved were K-12 music curriculum and the K-5 art curriculum for the 2009-10 school year as well as the USD 398 technology plan.
  • Summer school contracts were approved for Pamela Carter, Beth Peter, Danielle Retzlaff, Juanita Richstatter, Raquel Riggs, and Annette Weems.
  • The resignation of Kathy Ensey, vocal music teacher, was approved at the end of the 2008-09 school year.
  • A 10-minute executive session was requested to discuss a student wishing to enroll in the district. On return to open meeting, the board instructed Watson to provide residency information.
  • The board heard reports on new league affiliation developments, renovation of the special education building in Marion, and community meetings to introduce the diploma completion program.
  • FFA students received permission to attend the state convention May 26-29 in Manhattan and a state conference for chapter leaders July 6-8 at Rock Springs 4-H Camp. Approximately eight students and adviser Glenn Bechtel will attend the events. The district will provide transportation, student meals, and sponsor expenses.
  • Board members Tony Zappone and Bruce Burke were selected to present diplomas at graduation, Loucks will present awards, and Julia Ensminger and Zappone will present eighth-grade diplomas.
  • Communications/language arts textbooks, costs, and priorities were discussed following a presentation by curriculum chairman Michele Gossen. The board agreed to follow the committee’s recommendation and purchase the prioritized items as district funds become available.
  • A gift of miscellaneous automobile parts valued at $396 was accepted from Affordable Street Rods of Great Bend for use by students in the auto restoration program.
  • The board entered two executive sessions to discuss personnel. No action was taken on return to open meeting.

Last modified April 22, 2009

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