Block grant proposal would reduce Holton's operating budget

With the future of school financing and state aid in Kansas currently in flux, Holton superintendent Dennis Stones did his best to present the school board with some concrete information regarding upcoming changes proposed in the 2015-2016 school year at Monday’s regularly scheduled board meeting.

Stones addressed some of the current financing numbers with the board, pointing out the 57.827 mills being levied in the current fiscal year with the assessed valuation at $37,117 per mill for general funds and $42,379 per mill for all other funds, though Stones noted those valuations, too, could be changing in the future.

This was mainly background information, though, as Stones’ report primarily focused on the switches to a block grant program for state aid that will begin in 2015-2016.

Currently, USD 336 is operating on a budget of $8,329,620. Moving to the block grant next year, the district is projected to see drops in state aid for both capital outlay and local option budgets of approximately $50,000, Stones said.

While general fund aid is projected to increase by $55,914, that would still lead to an overall drop in the operating budget of $47,542.

In fiscal year 2016, the general fund is projected increase by $26,648 while the capital outlay and local option budgets would receive no state aid. Stones noted this is because the move to the block grant will provide state aid in one lump sum and where that aid is allocated will be up to the discretion of the school board.

As it stands, the Holton school district would operate under a budget lower than the current $8,329,620 for the next two years before it bounces back to $8,364,527 (projected) in fiscal year 2017.

Stones also addressed other legislation currently going through the state government that will affect schools, like House Bill #2345, which would not allow any relatives of educators to serve on local school boards and a bill that would allow teachers to be prosecuted for presenting “offensive” material to students.

With budgeting as it is and these additional measures potentially being taken to impact school districts, Stones questioned how schools around Kansas would be able to attract new teachers, especially with the average pay for teachers ranking 42nd in the United States.

Other business addressed by the board included:

*Approved consent agenda items including payment of bills ($631,357.38), payroll ($1,116,575.02), accepting donations from the Gold Glove Club ($700) for softball supplies and Mat Cats ($257.58) and approving resignations (ACE para Linda Porter, elementary media specialist Charlotte Michel and HMS assistant track coach Ryan West) and new hires (assistant HMS track coach David Ashcraft).

*Approved the formula for bus rentals as presented by transportation director Joe Kelly, which included a per mile cost of $1.22 to groups wanting to rent a USD 336 bus along with costs for a driver and a the need to make a formal request to the school board.

*Heard from Blue Cross Blue Shield representative Lisa Toyne about renewal rates for district health insurance. Since USD 336 rejoined in July of 2014, Toyne noted she did not have enough data yet to project renewal costs, but she did predict an increase due to a few high cost ($50,000 to $75,000) insurance clains.

Toyne also said she would like into getting the Holton into the Kansas Educational Insurance trust and come back with hard numbers on renewals in the future.

*Approved summer school in the district at a cost of $37,000, staying the same as last year.

*Recognized the third-place state wrestling team from HHS.

*Approved a contract with Schneider Electric for yearly services for a cost of $2,276.46.

*Approved a contract with Professional Fire Alarms for building inspection at an annual cost of $2,200.

*Approved a contract with Constellation New Energy at a cost of $351 per unit.

*Approved school fees for the 2015-2016 school year with the lone changes coming to meal prices. To meet state requirements, all meals in the district will increase by $0.15 in 2015-2016.

*Approved a bid from Southwest Paper to refinish the gym floors at HHS and HMS this summer for $4,797.12. One other bid was received from Pur-o-zone for $6,888.

*Discussed the E-Rate proposal with technology director Tom Sextro, who noted the deadline for applications is coming up at the end of March.

Two major projects jumped out to Sextro, who highlighted the board’s potential to defray some of the costs for equipment at the new elementary school with e-rate funding, while he noted there is some old equipment in the district that needs to be fazed. One example in particular Sextro pointed to was the core network switch at the high school, which is now 14 years old.

Board member Bob Phillips asked Sextro if that cost could be added in with the elementary projects, moving the network hub to the new elementary projects, but Sextro noted that would be a difficult and more costly process in the long run.

In order to decide what projects to potentially commit E-Rate funding to and to get a better idea of how it could be used in the new elementary school, Sextro suggested holding a special board meeting on March 23 to finalize the E-Rate proposal. The board approved the special meeting to start at 5 p.m. that Monday.

*Approved a bid from the Associated Insulation C to remove asbestos from three homes on the land the district purchased for the new elementary school project, which will cost $9,737.50.

*Met in executive session for a total of 18 minutes to protect the rights of a student.

*Met in executive session for 30 minutes to discuss matter pertaining to non-elected personnel.

*Noted the presence of all board members.

*Adjourned meeting at 8:50 p.m.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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