Numbers crunch hits Yates Center

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

YATES CENTER — Rusty Arnold, superintendent of schools, thinks enrollment in Yates Center USD 366 has stabilized and should start a gradual increase in the years ahead.
That’s little solace to what has occurred. “In the nine years I’ve been here, enrollment has decreased from 658 to 393 students” for the year just completed, Arnold said. And, he allowed, flagging enrollment could not have occurred at a more inopportune time.
Arnold told board members Monday night that between loss of enrollment and legislative action to deal with revenue shortfalls in Topeka, the district would receive $220,076 less in state aid for 2009-10. Added to that is about $72,000 in additional expenses for next school year to pay salary step increases for teachers, provide a 5-cent-an-hour increase for non-certified employees and meet other increases, including for special education and health insurance.
That put the total for state aid cuts and increased expenses at $282,214. This year’s general budget was $3.35 million, which means cuts amounted to about 8 percent.
“We lost 18.5 FTE (full-time equivalency) this year (2008-09),” he said, “and we’ll have about 100 students in the four grades of high school next year.”
The brighter side is that student numbers in middle and elementary schools are better, with classes of 32 to 39 students.
Once a class 3A school, a designation for participation in athletics and other activities, Yates Center High School will be 1A for next year in everything except football, where classification changes occur in two-year cycles.
Arnold said exact enrollment figures for 2009-10 wouldn’t be known until after the fall semester started, but he does know that this year’s senior class of 37 would be replaced with a kindergarten class of 34. After next year, though, graduating classes for several years will be replaced by elementary classes with larger enrollments.

WHAT MAY occur doesn’t change the reality of numbers that board members had to deal with Monday night.
To cope with revenue losses and increased expenses, they made staff cuts.
Royce Mueller, the district’s after-school tutor, was permanently furloughed. Also cut were Floyd Hobbs, high school custodian; Ella Fae Henson, district treasurer; Margie Vietti, elementary nurse aide; Valerie McGee, high school in-school suspension coordinator; Belinda Dyer, elementary cook; Donna Patterson, elementary library aide; and Debbie Hoag, elementary paraprofessional.
Board members also eliminated assistant high school football and track assistant coaching positions and two summer weight coaching slots. In an associated move, three bus routes maintained to carry students home after practice sessions were eliminated.
Arnold said the hourly wage for the district’s food service director, a position that will be filled later this summer, was cut $3 to $12 an hour and the daily work schedule for Karen Faulkner, middle school in-school suspension coordinator, was reduced by 30 minutes a day.
Having to make budget cuts for the coming school year is not peculiar to USD 366. Most Kansas districts have and the fear among board members and administrators is that more cuts may occur during the 2009-10 school year.
State revenue for May was $103 million less than anticipated and to keep the state solvent, a legal requirement under Kansas’ cash-basis law, Gov. Mark Parkinson ordered tax refunds and late June state aid distributions to be put off until the start of the 2010 fiscal year on July 1. He has said if revenue continued to fall short, he would adjust accordingly state distributions to education and other agencies.