Deficit looms if state funding doesn’t grow

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN NANCY MILLER
USD 410 may face a deficit of $35,000 during the 2001-02 school year unless the state legislature changes the current formula for education financing.


Gordon Mohn, superintendent, presented a report about district finances and state aid Monday night at the school board’s monthly meeting.


The report included information about Gov. Bill Graves’ “Focus on Educational Performance Plan,” which has emerged from an Education Task Force recommendation. The plan would increase the base state aid per pupil by $110 to $3,930 per student.


This increase would offset the financial impact of declining student enrollment.


But Graves’ plan has already been defeated in the Kansas House. A bill is still being considered in the Senate, however, that is similar to Graves’ original plan and includes the base increase.


USD 410 is already feeling a financial crunch this year, Mohn said. The district has already overspent in utilities because of the price increase for natural gas and electricity.


The local-option budget has fallen short by about $25,000, according to Mohn. The local option budget is supported by local property taxes and other local funding-which is not being collected as quickly as expected, thus creating financial problems.


“It’s the most dismal financial situation we’ve been in during the years that I’ve been here,” Mohn said.


Mohn reminded the board of program and spending cuts enacted in 1999. He suggested the board needed to prepare a plan of action in case the legislation does not pass.


In other business, two food-services staff members talked about upgrades needed in the elementary school kitchen and cafeteria facilities.


The report suggested that need for a proper cafeteria for students, to replace refrigeration and freezer units, insulate ductwork, and provide new water sources for food preparation


Currently, the elementary school cafeteria is of half of the gymnasium, separated from a physical education class only by a curtain.


“That kitchen hasn’t changed since 1961 when it was built,” Mohn said. “It is not a very adequate facility.”


Board members were encouraged to visit the facility during the next month and observe the problems before making a decision.


A proposition for a computer-purchasing agreement also was discussed. Members agreed that updating the Technology Lab and teachers’ desktop computers was needed.


A proposal for purchasing 30 laptop computers for the Wiebe Media Center was not as readily agreed on, though. The purchase would cost about $54,500.


The needed money could be found in the budget without spending more than is already committed this year, according to Mohn. But the board agreed to postpone a decision until its May meeting.


The board also discussed the renewal of teacher and supplemental contracts. All teacher contracts have been renewed, subject to acceptance by the teacher.


The new contracts grant tenure to three teachers in the district: Sharon Loewen, Sunshine McEwen and Robert Woelk. In Kansas, teachers receive tenure by completing three consecutive years of teaching within a district and are offered a fourth contract.


“We would like to make a long-term commitment to them,” Mohn said, referring to the three teachers in question.


The board approved the 2001-02 school calendar, which includes 186 contact days.


Martin Luther King Day has been scheduled as a normal day of class. On this day, an activity focusing on Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement, or cultural diversity will be implemented in the district’s three schools.


An additional day was also added to spring break. Next year students will be off Wednesday through Friday.


In other business, cookie sales at the middle school generated about $3,000, according to Evan Yoder, principal.


The Accelerated Reader program, along with other programs yet to be determined, will benefit from the sales of about 400 cases of cookies.


The board also discussed summer school, summer maintenance plans, and orientation and training for Brent Barkman and Eddie Weber, newly elected board members. Teacher-evaluation policies were also discussed.

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