257 woes mount

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January 26, 2010 - 12:00 AM

A financial bombshell fell on USD 257’s Board of Education Monday night.
Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools, forecasted that without revenue en-hancements, state aid would drop another $825,000 for the district in 2010-11. That’s in addition to $1.1 million USD 257 has lost since September 2008, including $426,000 in November.
He asked how board members preferred to deal with the problem. In the past, administrators and staff put together cuts for the BOE to consider. He also mentioned public meetings and a committee of staff, parents, patrons, students and board members.
“I’d like input from administrators, they know where cuts impact kids,” Deanne Burris said.
“The public should have an opportunity to have input,” Tony Leavitt said.
“Maybe we can be proactive, find ways to increase (local) revenue,” Mary Apt proposed.
“We’ll look at all options so we can have discussions and make plans,” Neuenswander replied.
He noted if the Legislature did vote to increase revenue, such as through Gov. Mark Parkinson’s proposed one-cent increase in the statewide sales tax, the district still could face a budget authority reduction of as much as $267,000 next year because of loss of enrollment this year. State law permitted the district to figure this year’s budget on last year’s enrollment, but it will have to take into consideration loss of about 110 students in the 2010-11 budget.
Neuenswander proposed a long list of cuts in November. Any further reductions will have to include staff. About 80 percent of the money the district spends goes to salaries.

BOB COLEMAN, ANW Cooperative director, told board members 92 percent of the cooperative’s budget went to salaries.
“We don’t have any building costs to speak of,” he said, noting that special education students — nearly 1,100 — were taught in classrooms of the eight member districts.
The co-op has budget authority this year of $12,345,722, with $698,000 of that coming from federal stimulus money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Coleman pointed out that a substantial portion of the budget comes from state aid, a touch over $5 million, and another $2.3 million in district contributions. USD 257’s share is $585,050.50 this year.
Absorbing state aid cuts is difficult, Coleman explained, because most of the co-op’s expenditures are for salaries and because “all services are mandated by the state or federal government.”
The ANW Co-op is not as dependent on participating districts as eight others in eastern Kansas. Local district contributions to ANW amount to 18 percent of its budget, second only to 15 percent in the Three Lakes Cooperative in the Lyndon area.
“Special education opportunities have made a huge difference in the lives of children in our country,” Coleman said.
He noted service has changed over the years, from isolating the most severely disabled to today’s trend of integrating them in regular classrooms. Many students who needed special assistance were found to have failings in only a subject or two, he said.

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