Heights looking at small aid gain if block grant OK'd
If Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal to retool state aid to schools as “block grants” is approved by the Kansas Legislature, the Jackson Heights district doesn’t stand to lose as much in overall state aid as some bigger districts in the state, but it doesn’t stand to gain much, either.
During the USD 335 Board of Education’s regular monthly meeting on March 9, District Superintendent and Elementary Principal Adrianne Walsh updated the board on the Kansas Legislature’s proposal to transition state aid for schools into flexible block grants while the Kansas Legislature attempts to rewrite the school financing formula.
The district would lose $120,169 in total state aid for the current year, as well as $29,087 in “allotment” authority cuts approved by Brownback and a minor reduction in the amount of state aid initially expected, according to figures provided by Walsh. But with an increase of more than $161,000 in local option budget funds over the previous school year, the loss is mitigated to a certain extent, board members noted.
The “block grant” legislation — which narrowly passed the Kansas House of Representatives on Friday and will go before the Senate sometime this week — would cut $93,886 from the general fund as it was approved last summer. The district got $7,243 less in general fund state aid for 2014-15, she said.
The district’s general fund was cut further by $29,087 when Brownback used his “allotment” authority to trim the state’s general fund for 2015. If the block grant is approved, Walsh estimated the general fund for 2014-15 would be cut by another $57,556.
Cuts could also be expected in capital outlay for the year, board members noted. Walsh said that this year, the district is expecting $57,076 in capital outlay funds from the state, but if the block grant passes, the district would likely receive only $39,135 — a decrease of $17,941.
The outlook is not as dire on the local option budget side of things, she said, noting that the LOB for 2014-15 represented an increase of $161,370 over the previous year, but even with a block grant reduction in $44,672, the district would still be looking at $116,698 on the plus side. With the losses and gains of the three funds put together, the district is looking at an overall budget increase of $4,871.
That amount is hardly enough to cover rising costs, board members noted, with Walsh reminding the board that expected increases in insurance and food supply costs would hardly be covered by a $4,871 increase in funds. Still, she added, it’s not as bad as some larger school districts in the state that face budget cuts of “several hundred thousand dollars” or more.
The block grant is not expected to have much of an effect on how much the district makes in KPERS payments for retiring teachers, even though the state-level decision to include KPERS payments in the amount of state aid that schools would receive amounts to little more than “smoke and mirrors,” Walsh said later.
“It’s just flow-through money,” she added.
Walsh also spoke during the meeting on pending bills in the Legislature that could affect school districts, including two that could prove costly to individual districts. One bill, if passed, would require school districts to post their top 10 salaries on their Web sites or face a fine of $1,000 per day for noncompliance, while another proposes a $5,000 daily fine for not being in compliance with the Student Data Privacy Act.
“There are a lot of punitive things that hopefully will not go through,” she said.
In other business on March 9, the board:
• Approved an amended agenda and the meeting’s consent agenda, the latter of which included the minutes from meetings held in February and monthly billing and activity account reports.
• Met in executive session with Walsh, Middle and High School Principal Darren Shupe and Jennifer McMahon present to discuss personnel matters for five minutes. No action resulted from the executive session.
• Approved an updated version of the district’s technology plan as presented by District Technology Director Vern Andrews. A story on the plan appeared in the Wednesday, March 11 edition of The Holton Recorder.
• Met with Jared Beam of Brier Payne Meade Insurance of Overland Park to discuss the district’s property and liability insurance policy for the 2015-16 school year. The board approved the policy premium estimate of $42,861 along with a separate $4,300 service fee on a 5-2 vote, with board members Melinda Wareham and Neal Keeler opposed.
• Met with high school math teacher Robin Sides and middle school math teacher Gary Baldridge to discuss their respective new curricula in math, with some questions being raised over how to transition eighth-grade students to freshman algebra.
• Agreed to keep the fee for summer driver’s education classes at $110. Walsh told board members that this summer’s class should have about 22 students enrolled, roughly the same as the previous summer.
• Heard a report from Walsh on guidelines for a mentoring program for the district.
• Heard a report from Walsh on upcoming activities at the elementary school, including the 2015-16 kindergarten parent meeting, kindergarten round-up and the possibility of having a pre-school screening date.
• Learned from Shupe that the school will host the Northeastern Kansas League forensics tournament next February. Shupe told board members he has requested that the tournament be held on Feb. 15, 2016, a Monday, rather than Feb. 16, 2016, a Tuesday.
• Heard a report from Shupe about upcoming activities at the middle school and high school, including this week’s state basketball tournament, in which the high school boys basketball team is vying for a state title; distribution of pre-enrollment packets on March 23; state assessment testing in April; and prom on Aprii 11.
• Met in executive session with Walsh for 55 minutes to discuss personnel matters.
• Following the executive session, accepted the resignation of Roger Brown, middle school social studies teacher.
• Approved a contract offer for Katie Morris as art teacher for pre-kindergarten through high school.
• Adjourned the meeting at approximately 10:20 p.m. All board members were present.