Iola mulls aid request

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April 13, 2010 - 12:00 AM

USD 257 board members reviewed again Monday night cuts they might make in the district’s 2010-11 budget, but won’t take action until they know what the Legislature will do with school finance.
USD 257 has lost $1.1 million in state aid since August 2008 and in a worst-case scenario faces a $902,000 loss for next school year.
“The best we can hope for is a loss of $330,000 to $340,000,” Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools, said, noting that an enrollment decline ensures a budget decrease of nearly $270,000 and additional costs of $77,000 are anticipated because of increases in fuel, utilities and insurance premiums.
The only new strategy Neuenswander proposed was to ask the Friends of the Bowlus to assist with the district’s annual lease payment for use of classrooms in the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. That is $129,000 this year.
“The Friends helped several years ago when we had budget problems,” he said, recalling the amount was “about $25,000.”
Board members have discussed increasing the capital outlay fund by 3 mills to raise $150,000, which could be used to pay the Bowlus fee and alleviate the general fund of that expenditure. Use of the capital outlay fund is restricted — it can’t be used to pay salaries  — but could meet the Bowlus obligation.
The Bowlus discussion occurred when Neuenswander pointed out that a net saving of $83,750 would be realized by closing the technology lab at the middle school and moving vocal and instrumental classes for sixth, seventh and eighth graders there from the Bowlus.  Most of the savings would be in elimination of an instructor and paraprofessional, totaling $61,000. Actual savings from leaving the Bowlus Center would be $22,750, including $16,300 for daily busing of students to and from IMS.
A delegation of board members and an administrator will approach the Friends of the Bowlus at a time yet to be decided.
Neuenswander said he doubted if a Legislative Post Audit examination of district spending, which was proposed earlier, would uncover any cuts not already being considered. LPA surveys are done on the state’s nickel, but only three of 297 districts have taken advantage, and “the state isn’t pushing to have them done,” he said.
Results in the three districts have been cursory cuts, such as turning off lights and appliances and scrimping on materials, and such major education-affecting things as closing schools, cutting staff and combining classrooms.
Legislators will return to Topeka in about three weeks and then will have April’s revenue figures. Today they face a shortfall of about $450 million for next year, which has led to predictions that per-pupil state aid will be cut to $3,726 —  it was $4,433 a year ago — which projects a state-aid loss of $490,000 for USD 257.
“All we can do is wait and see what the Legislature decides to do,” Neuenswander said.

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