257 joins lawsuit



July 13, 2010 - 12:00 AM

USD 257 board members voted unanimously to support litigation by Schools for Fair Funding seeking additional state money. Along with membership dues, which fund lobbying by SFFF, the district will pay $4,065 to participate in the legal action.
The decision came after Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools, said he feared the formula to adequately fund schools wouldn’t change without a lawsuit. Once again, USD 257 finds itself in financial straits.
Income from the additional one-cent sales tax essentially replaces $172 million in federal stimulus money, Neuenswander said. Also, he said ‘there was no certainty that federal support for Medicaid, anticipated at $130 million a year, would materialize, which would put an additional burden on the state budget. And, “the state’s ending balance of $1.4 million is pocket change,” compared to the $5.4 billion general fund budget.
Results from the lawsuit, same as the Montoy v. Kansas case that led the State Supreme Court to order legislators to increase school funding by $755.6 million, won’t be timely. The Montoy case took years to work its way through the system; it was filed in 1999 and resolved in July 28, 2006.
State revenue has failed to meet projections for two years, although some recent months have been better. Base state aid was cut from $4,492 a year ago to $4,012 today, which is better than the $3,726 that was predicted early this year before enough momentum developed to pass the one-cent sales tax.
“I’m not comfortable with the lawsuit, but I’m also worried about what may happen,” he said, noting that the additional sales tax, in place for three years, passed both houses of the Legislature with little wiggle room and that this fall’s election could lead to more of an anti-tax attitude in the state capitol.
Board  members will look closely at the district’s budget, still under construction, at their July 26 meeting. A public hearing will occur in mid-August.

ALSO AT their next meeting board members will decide direction for the high school building trades class.
A house built in Gas two years ago just sold and one built this year in the Cedarbrook Addition hasn’t.
The lagging sales prompted board members to look at other projects, including remodeling of structures or projects to benefit the district directly.
They dismissed district projects, deciding it was too late to develop plans with students due back in class in about a month, and settled on having the Building Trades Committee give a recommendation at their July 26 meeting.
Buck Quincy said he favored a new home. Darrell Catron, also mayor of Gas, noted city-owned property there was available at no cost, but allowed it probably would be better to take advantage of plots Iola offered in Cedarbrook, near the existing school-built house.
“Maybe we can think about doing remodeling work in another year,” Catron said.
Neuenswander observed this wasn’t the first time the district had had a house for sale when construction of a new one started with a new school year.

MARY APT was re-elected president of the board and Quincy vice president.
Nothing changed in a broad array of designations, such as keeping meetings the second and fourth Monday of each month, and appointments to non-elected board offices and board committees.
Following a 15-minute executive session, board members approved a negotiated agreement with teachers that provides them with salary raises averaging 2.76 percent.
Meeting as Bowlus Fine Arts Center trustees and following another 15-minute executive session, the resignation of Tammy Porter, Bowlus finance and marketing director, was accepted.

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