ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
Some parents may wince about now having to pay a $75 fee for each child who takes driver’s education at Hillsboro High School.
But that’s still a bargain price, at least compared to some school districts-such as Lindsborg, where each student is charged $150 to take the course, said Max Heinrichs, activities director at Unified School District 410.
Heinrich taught a driver education course to students at Lindsborg this summer.
Assessing the driver’s ed fee was one action taken by USD 410 board of education at its Monday night meeting to meet the proposed 2003-04 budget.
In the past, students have not had to pay to take the course.
The new fee will be three-tiered-with the cost being $75 for those students who pay full price for meals, $37.50 for those who qualify for reduced price for meals, and $15 for students who qualify for free meals.
“I think it’s a very fair price,” said Heinrichs about the elective course taught at HHS by Kory Unruh.
Actual costs per student are somewhere between $180 to $200, said Superintendent Gordon Mohn.
Before approving the fee, the board members spent an extended time discussing issues related to fees charged to students, especially those from families on tight budgets.
“I think (charging) $75 will hurt us the first year,” said Heinrichs about those students who may choose not to take the course because of the additional cost.
“I would hate to see a kid not take (the course).”
New board member Rod Koons voiced the view that people seem to place more value on something for which they pay.
“I struggle with the word ‘free,'” Koons said about fees waived for students who qualify for free meals. “There’s a difference between ‘free’ and ‘no charge.'”
The board also passed a $5 increase for all textbook fees, which means $20 for kindergarten, $25 for grades one to 12, $20 for students who qualify for reduced meals, and $5 for students who qualify for free lunches.
But parents don’t have to worry about increases in the cost of school meals, which were raised last year.
Meal prices for 2003-04 will remain at the same level as the past year.
Mohn reiterated the financial challenges the district faces because of lower enrollment, an uncertainty about state revenue and a 2 percent salary increase.
He said a “worst-case scenario” was considered in developing the budget, with having initial estimates of more than a $300,000 and assuming any increase in the local option budget would require an increase in the mill levy.
“I think it’s important to err (in that direction) to be better prepared” for what the outcome might be.
“The downside is people tend to not believe you” if things turn out better than the “worst-case scenario,” Mohn said.
The strategy Mohn recommended would have the district increase the local option budget to its maximum and lower the levy by 2.012 mills.
“We can generate more money with fewer mills,” Mohn said.
“This is possible due to the accelerated property tax that the Kansas legislature provided Gov. Sebelius as a way to balance the state budget. This acceleration requires property taxes normally distributed in July of 2004 (2004-05 school year) be distributed in June of 2004 (2003-04 school year).”
Mohn recommended the board reserve $55,535 of that “spike”from 2003-04 LOB for 2004-05.
He also recommended $60,000 in the bond and interest fund be carried over to reduce the mill levy in 2004-05.
“That’s the direction we’re going,” Mohn said, adding that a final version of the proposed budget will be presented to the board at a meeting scheduled for July 28. Then the budget-estimated to be more than $4.6 million-will be published July 30 for the public to review.
“We can’t go higher than what’s published,” Mohn told the board. “But you could go lower.”
While the board had already approved at prior meetings reductions in spending by eliminating several staff positions and reducing the budgets for all three buildings, much of Monday night was spent focusing on various aspects related to the upcoming fiscal and school year.
In other business, the board:
elected Brent Barkman as president and re-elected Eddie Weber as vice president.
reappointed Debbie Geis as the board’s representative to Marion County Special Education Cooperative.
approved the master contract for certified employees as agreed by board and teacher negotiators.
approved a substitute-teacher schedule and established the daily pay rate at $82.50-a $2.50 increase.
approved contracts for four employees, including supplemental contracts to Matt Carroll and Creigh Bell to serve as Technology Student Association sponsors, Charlene Pschigoda to serve as a late activity and special events bus driver, and Stuart Holmes for additional work in a social studies course via the ITV network.
approved pay rates for non-contracted classified personnel.
accepted the resignation of Gladys Funk as bus driver. Funk indicated her intent to retire.
approved revised District Professional Development Plan for USD 410. The plan allows points generated from profession development activities to be used for teacher certificate renewal and for advancement on the district’s salary schedule.
approved the Title II participatory agreement for funds designed for use in the Wiebe Media Center and Hillsboro Elementary School library.
approved meetings dates for the board of education during the 2003-04 school year.
approved school calendar structure of 1,116-hour calendar for the upcoming school year.
designated Emprise Bank, Hillsboro State Bank and Marion National Bank Marion Count as depositories for district funds and Hillsboro State Bank as the depository for operational funds.
approved the Workers Compensation Fund Agreement for USD 410.
designated the Hillsboro Star-Journal as the official newspaper for publication of notices.
approved the district’s 2003-04 membership in the Kansas Association of School Boards and participate in that organization’s Legal Assistance Fund. The fee is $900.
adopted the resolution to establish home rule, based on new state legislation that grants Kansas school boards the authority to take any action not specifically prohibited by the law. This resolution must be passed annually in order for the board to exercise home-rule authority.
Board members Doug Weinbrenner and Mark Rooker were absent from the meeting.