BOE discusses budget concerns

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

USD 257 has enough cash to meet this month’s payroll, Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools, told board members Monday night.
The concern arose after the state delayed an end-of-school-year distribution, due June 30, to July 7 as part of its confronting a $103 million revenue shortfall.
Neuenswander attended a budget workshop and said most districts were planning for another decrease in per-pupil aid of $30 to $50 in the next few months. Additional cuts are anticipated on the belief that revenue shortfalls will continue, Neuenswander said.
Board members will put together the 2009-10 budget in July, with a public hearing in mid-August.
They will review their lease agreement with the Bowlus Fine Arts Center at their July 13 meeting. Neuenswander said the committee that originally developed the Bowlus financial agreement met last week and made an adjustment of about $9,000, which reduced the annual figure to $121,000.
The committee proposed raising the capital outlay fund levy by 1 to 3 mills. Currently at 5 mills, it can be statutorily raised to 8 mills. Each mill increase would raise $50,000 for district.
“It’s not a good time to raise taxes, but it may be necessary,” Neuenswander said. The Bowlus lease and additional expenses could be covered by a 3-mill raise.
A legislative change in school funding this year removed state aid from the capital outlay mix. Previously USD 257 received $22,500 in state aid for each mill levied. The district will start the 2009-10 year with about $400,000 in the capital outlay fund.
Money in the fund may be used for improvements and equipment and materials expenses, as well as lease payments. The bulk of the cost of the new track and football improvements in Riverside Park, totaling about $1 million, was paid from the fund. The last payment, $246,835.57, was made on June 11.

FOLLOWING a 10-minute executive session, board members hired Heather Luedke as an elementary art teacher, Mary Ann Regehr as an elementary classroom teacher and James Harris as an elementary music teacher. They also accepted the resignation of Tara Gray, elementary art teacher, and Charles Kerr, high school vocational agriculture instructor.
Kerr’s resignation does not mean he will leave the district. He has reached the threshold of 85 points in tenure and age to qualify for Kansas Public Employees Retirement, which he may trigger and then return to the district faculty, a provision made by the Legislature this year.
Board members also approved purchase of 30 netbooks, which are miniature notebook computers, and related equipment for the middle school. Cost was $11,876.77 and came from a secondary schools SAFE BASE grant.
The building trades house in Gas was put up for bids with a reserve of $90,000. Neuenswander said cost of materials was about $86,000.
Board members took no action other than to adjourn after a 10-minute executive session to consider teacher contract negotiations.