Monday's school board meeting

An important action at Monday’s Augusta USD 402 Board of Education meeting was the board’s approval of a resolution to increase the district’s Local Option Budget (LOB) to 33 percent.  
Passing the resolution is only the first step which gives the BOE authority to consider raising the LOB above its current 30 percent level.  
Superintendent John Black explained that the decision to pass a higher LOB is usually done at the time of budget approval in late  July or early August.  At the time of approving the budget the board would consider any percentage from the current 30 percent up to 33 percent.
“The reason this recommendation comes to you now is to provide a way to address the Board’s goal of improving salary, wages and benefits for its employees,” Black continued, “Without a higher LOB option, USD 402 remains behind area school districts when it comes to starting salaries.”
Black shared the base salaries of surrounding school districts.
El Dorado - $41,051
Special Ed Coop Interlocal 638 - $39,530
Andover - $39,289
Whitewater/Remington -$38,500                          Douglass (salary formula) - $38,150        Rose Hill - $37,300  Flint Hills -  $36,650 Circle (salary formula) - $36,367               Bluestem - $35,500   
Augusta - $34,908
The starting salaries don’t reflect the amount of employee benefits like retirement options and health insurance, which can play a large part in applying for a job or remaining in a district.
Superintendent Black stressed that if the Board passed the resolution and decides to approve the 2019 Budget with an increase in the LOB, that it could be accomplished without increasing the mill levy to USD 402 tax payers.
Current tax authority would be reduced in one or more funds to provide for the increase in the LOB.  
“We’ve confirmed with the KSDE School Finance Team that we can present a resolution under the current law SB19 and not have to wait for a new law in July,” Black advised.
BOE member Carey Lee wanted the point stressed again. “I just want to be clear on this  for the taxpayers- this does not mean taxes are being raised if we approve this resolution?”
“That’s right.  We are doing our best to address the needs of the district without costing taxpayers more money,” said BOE President Bill Rinkenbaugh.
Under the school finance bill passed last year, SB19, any LOB above 30 percent is subject to voter protest petition.  Under the prior law, any amount over 30 percent required an election.
Board members approved the resolution, 6-0.  BOE member Larry Winter was absent from the meeting.
More discussion will take place on this issue during the budget process.
 A request from St. James
St. James Catholic School Principal Richard Guy appeared before the BOE to ask to open dialogue with the board in consideration of allowing St. James  middle school students to participate in sports activities offered in Augusta’s district.
He shared information on other districts that  successfully allow students attending private schools to participate in sports at the district schools.
BOE President Bill Rinkenbaugh said, “Thank you for coming tonight.  We will take your request under consideration, discuss it and get back to you.”
Recognitions included honoring Christy Watkins and Gus Garcia for 25 years of service in education.
Augusta Middle School and Augusta High School AVID students shared the successes of the program with board members.
Other action
The district is required to request bids on the food service program every five years.  The bid request went out in early March and the district received two proposals. A committee evaluated both proposals and received approval from KSDE Child Nutrition & Wellness to award a contract.
“Our recommendation is to stay with OPAA! Food Management.  We’ve been very satisfied with OPAA! and pleased to make this recommendation,” said Black.
The proposal was approved 6-0.
Other items approved:
• The leasing of 580 Lenovo Chromebooks, laptop computers for the elementary schools  in the amount of $47,497, and the renewal of the lease at AHS for 700 Chromebooks at the cost of $55,360.40 for a total of $102,857.47.
• Purchase of choral risers used on stage at AHS and Lincoln Elementary.  The existing ones are bowed and have tip hazards because of carpet and flooring.  There is no back or side safety rail.  New risers were purchased at Garfield and Robinson during the bond project.  The total cost for risers and an acoustic shell is $57,811.40.
Black advised the board that once the new risers arrive the old ones can be sold to recoup part of the cost.
“The cost of these will be more later due to the tariffs on China,” Black said.
• Facility usage request and waiver of fees for Dance for SpEd to be held at the high school on April 13, 2019.
Legislative update
Black shared that the State and Schools for Fair Funding (the Gannon Case) will meet at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 22 before the Supreme Court to begin oral arguments.  Superintendent Black plans to attend the proceedings.
“It would be nice to know their decision by the end of the week or the end of the month, but the justices have until the end of June.  Hopefully, we’ll know something in early June.”
“All this money has been spent and they have all the studies - and they didn’t use them.  I’m at a loss,” said McCalla.
“The last study paid for by the legislators stated what was needed is much higher than the original $5 million,” stated Black.
BOE President Bill Rinkenbaugh stated that in his AHS commencement remarks he had stated that Jacob Lewellen was Augusta’s first National Merit Scholar, and was reminded later that Nate Kroeker received the honor in 2015.   Rinkenbaugh apologized for the error.