257 board will ID cuts

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February 23, 2010 - 12:00 AM

USD 257 board members will review recommendations at their March 8 meeting for how to deal with a projected loss of $902,000 in state aid for the 2010-11 school year.
At a Feb. 17 special session, Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools, handed board members a list of potential cuts that totaled $1,765,235. Then, they tentatively identified enough to reduce expenditures by $519,00, leaving $383,000 to be found.
“It’s going to be difficult,” he said. “I don’t like some of the things we’d have to do to get to $902,000.”
Legislators are halfway through their current session and have given no indication that additional funding or other means will be employed to protect funding for education. Some have talked about further cuts, which led to projections, including the ones for USD 257, of deep cuts for next school year.
Since September 2008, when the recession became a fact of life in Kansas, USD 257 has had $1.1 million in state aid cuts, including $426,000 last November that reduced this year’s general operations budget authority from a smidgen over $13 million to $12.6 million.
Proposed cuts discussed last week were reported in the Register Feb. 18, and included food service and special education transfers, spartan office procedures and energy conservation, moving or closing the Crossroads alternative school in Gas, moving middle school music programs from the Bowlus Fine Arts Center, reducing sports and other extra-curricular activities, going to a four-day week, cutting kindergarten to half a day, and several approaches to reduce staff and faculty numbers.
Then, Neuenswander also pointed that the district could spend $200,000 from its contingency reserve fund — he encouraged keeping $300,000 in place to meet payroll when state aid payments lagged, and that the district would have available $85,000 in federal stimulus money. He also mentioned bringing back textbook rental fees — $40 per student would generate about $23,000 — and charging students to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities. He said then a 15-cent increase in meals prices would raise $18,000.

SINCE THE special session faculty and patrons who attended handed Neuenswander suggestions, which they were encouraged to do.
Among them:
— Do not eliminate full-day kindergarten.
— Offer early retirement incentives to reduce faculty.
— Remove classes from the Bowlus; if we continue high school classes, share the classroom.
— Keep Crossroads; move to middle or high school.
— Close McKinley Elementary: move fifth graders to the middle school, create K-2 school at Lincoln and 3-4 at Jefferson.
— Go to a four-day week; don’t go to a four-day week.
— Keep tech lab at middle school and eliminate middle school choir and band, or reduce size of the tech lab and move to another classroom.
— Eliminate assistant principal at the middle school.
— Share teachers with neighboring districts in specialty areas.
— Combine clerical staffs at central office and other buildings.
— Cut whatever you can and then look at staff.
— Reduce coaching and activities.
— Reduce copying costs, with centralized copy center or have one person do all at each school.
— Increase mill levy.
— Use volunteers more.
— Have fund raisers.
— Survey students who have left district and encourage them to return.

THE QUESTION about students who have left the district has reared its head previously. About 70 students from USD 257 attend classes in Marmaton Valley schools, including many from LaHarpe, and others are enrolled elsewhere. A handful of students from out of district attend USD 257 schools.
Under current state law, the only means of increasing local tax support would be to raise the capital outlay fund by 3 mills to a total of 8 and bump up the local option budget from 30 to 31 percent of the general fund, which would require a vote. LOB money may be used for general operations. Capital outlay money is restricted to equipment purchases and building improvements, but some purchases planned for the general fund could be moved to the capital outlay fund to free up money for general expenditures.
Bills in the Legislature would increase the LOB and trigger other means of increasing local taxes, but, Neuenswander said they did not appear to have significant support.

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