USD 402 Board of Education makes cuts

Augusta’s Board of Education made some tough decisions at the regular monthly meeting Monday night.
Board members approved an administration request to republish the district 2013-2014 budget to include increased FTE weighting. This republishing is for an additional $35,065 in state aid, which does not increase the local effort.   
The hearing will be held at before the next BOE meeting at 6:30 p.m. June 9.
Discussion moved on to the plans for reductions and savings and the Fiscal Committee’s recommendation.
The Fiscal Committee, comprised of board members Kim Braungardt, Bill Rinkenbaugh, and Bob McCalla, along with Superintendent Dr. John Black and Annette Powers, director of finance, has been meeting regularly since September.  Saving the district money has been a top priority and it was apparent no recommendations came lightly.
Black explained the committee specifically focused on the following budgetary factors:
• Fund Affordable Care Act - additional employee health care
• Stop or slow the use of the Contingency Fund
• Fund salary and benefit increases
In order to accomplish the goals, the committee reviewed the work and recommendation from the Budget Committee and finalized a “Reduction and Saving Plan for FY15.”  The following plan is what the Fiscal Committee asked the BOE to approve:
1. Elementary teacher - The three section first grade classes at Lincoln School will be reduced to two sections next year.  The teacher in that position will transfer to kindergarten, which will be available because of Pam Olson’s retirement.  Ten students will be assigned to other classes in Ewalt and Robinson.  So far, four families have currently volunteered. Savings = $32,688
2.  Director of Communications - That position was eliminated at the April BOE meeting. A savings of $39,000
3.  Grounds - A vacant full time position in the Grounds Department has been filled with a seasonal worker.  Savings = $8,250
4. Gallup Teacher Insight - An online tool the district used to determine which teacher candidates it should consider hiring has not been renewed.  The district used it for over eight years. Savings = $3,765
5. Nurses - School nurses are contracted for three extra days. Those days will be cut and the nurses will work the same number of days (184) as teachers. Savings= $2,533
6. Reimbursement to Teachers - The district is budgeting using contingency funds, so teachers are being notified there will not be a reimbursement in June 2015 and to be cautious when spending their personal money on supplies. Savings= $8,965
7.  Learning Center - The Augusta Learning Center was not self-sustaining and the board entered into a contract with ESSDACK to provide these services. Savings= $36,000
8.  Counselors - School counselors received extra days to perform their duties. The middle counselors’ 10 extra days have been reduced to eight, and the elementary counselors’ from five to zero. Savings= $4,545
9.  Librarians - School librarians received extra days, as well. Their extra days have gone from 10 to five. Savings= $8,063
10.  Athletics - Athletics will be reduced from the amount budgeted from the General Fund by $5,000. ADA Doug Law will determine where the reductions will occur.   Savings = $5,000
11.  Teacher evaluation - The district has decided to us e4E instead of McREL.  Savings= $1,300
12.  Coop Purchases - Emphasis has been placed on making district purchases through cooperative purchasing agreements, such as one with Greenbush Service Center. Building budgets will be cut by 1 percent based on the anticipated savings.  Savings= $2,000
13. Utilities - Use less, turn off when unoccupied.  Savings = $2,000
Increased expenditures:
1. Fulfilling employer obligations in providing healthcare to qualifying groups, such as building secretaries.
2.  In April, the board approved the increase in district property and worker compensation insurance.
3.  Savings from reductions will be used to stop the deficit spending and dependency on the Contingency Fund.
Adding the numbers for new revenue available next  year, minus expenditures, and including the amount saved by making the recommended reductions, the bottom line is over $8,000 on the plus side.
“Those of us on the committee have seen these numbers again and again.  Do the rest of you have any questions - does anything jump out at you?” BOE President Bill Rinkenbaugh asked.
“Has this been talked over with anyone?  Have the librarians freaked out?” BOE member Charles Garcia asked.
“Most likely disappointed, but remember that no positions are being cut.  Once you approve this recommendation, I will have formal discussions with them,” Black explained.
Board Member Jim Brown said, “This was hard work - these cuts.  We tried hard to keep it away from the classrooms. It will probably get to that point - we will have to look at positions. But this plan is a good plan.”
The board approved the Reductions and Saving Plan 6-0. Board Member Andy Hall was not present.
New Capital Outlay Resolution
“I waited until now to get all the information together.  I advise you to give serious consideration for a new Capital Outlay Resolution.  After the governor signed the new finance bill into law on May 1, we now have expanded options on what we can spend out of Capital Outlay,” Black continued. “It gives the Board of Education options to consider spending dollars in a different way.”
Black explained the new law allows districts adopting new Capital Outlay resolutions after May 1, the following list of items can also be charged to the Capital Outlay Fund:
1. Computer software, operating system upgrades
2. Filters (air, fuel)
3. Repairs to equipment
4. Repairs to vehicles
5. Tires
6. Salaries for maintenance of district property and equipment (includes custodians, bus mechanics, and others)
7. Uniforms - band, pep band, athletic, etc.
8. Upkeep of grounds, streets
USD 402’s current Capital Outlay resolution was approved on Oct. 11, 2010 for 6 mills and for five years.  This current resolution does not  permit the use of any of the expenditures listed above.
After reviewing the benefits of passing a new resolution, the Fiscal Committee brought their recommendation to the board.
“The advantage is that current expenses in the General Fund and Local Option Budget could be moved to Capital Outlay leaving more money in those two funds for instruction related costs,” Black continued. “It is also important to recognize that state equalization aid will be paid to qualifying districts to support the Capital Outlay Fund.  Each mill levied in USD 402 will generate an additional $41,233 in aid for the fund.”
In addition to making the decision on whether or not to pass a new resolution, the BOE had to decide the maximum number of mills in the resolution and the length of time of the resolution. Black’s recommendation to the Fiscal Committee was to consider 8 mills and that the resolution be “continuous and permanent.”  Black further explained the board does not have to levy the entire number of mills in next  year’s budget that it has authority to levy based on the current resolution.  The decision of how much will be levied is made when the FY15 budget is approved in August.  
Augusta USD 402 has a current resolution for 6 mills, however, the district has not levied 6 mills for the past three years.  This year the board approved 3.26 mills for Capital Outlay. The resolution does not change the actual mill levy.
Black did report although members of the Fiscal Committee were in support of a new resolution,  they were not unified regarding whether the resolution should be approved at 8 mills or at 6 mills.  
“I personally think it would be irresponsible to raise it to 8 mills. If the state pulls the rug out from under us, it would create a dangerous position for our community,” Board Member Kim Braungardt said.
“But we can ask for 8 mills...we’ll be showing responsibility,” Board Member Matthew Blank responded.
“It’s (8 mills) is a recklessly high number and if we don’t need it, it can’t be justified. How do I tell business owners there’s a potential of raising it to 8 mills, but we’re really not going to do’s reckless,” Braungardt said.
Before the board moved to adopt a new Capital Outlay resolution, Board Member Bob McCalla addressed Braungardt’s objections to the 8 mills, saying “It’s a strong possibility that we’re no longer in the 3.6 mills category, but higher, right? I want to caution the board that mills won’t be staying at the same level and may come close to 6 mills.”
The board approved (5-1) the resolution at 6 mills and not 8 mills. McCalla was the one vote against the measure.
Schools for Fair Funding
On the heels of ruling in March by the Kansas Supreme Court affirming state government unconstitutionally failed to equitably finance K-12 public schools and the challenge of correcting the financial imbalance in the school finance system, Augusta’s BOE renewed the district’s membership and support of Schools for Fair Funding.  
There are 49 school districts in Kansas in the group participating. The cost of Augusta’s participation is $13,936.52. Board members approved renewal of membership, 5-1, with Board Member Jim Brown voting against.
GMAX for Ewalt project
It appears the ongoing condensation problem with the windows at Ewalt Elementary is going to be solved this summer.  
The project, which includes partial removal of ceilings to install a thermal barrier, removal and replacement of all damaged gypsum soffit panels and framing, spraying foam insulation, and painting, will be completed by the start of the new school year in August.
Based on the recommendation by PBA Architects, Crossland Construction Inc., will provide a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMAX) for construction of the Ewalt Elementary soffit repair in the amount of $151,111.
The board approved 6-0.
Board members were reminded of the AHS graduation at 2 p.m. at Hillier Stadium.

Belinda Larsen can be reached at