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Redistricting, construction on horizon for USD 383

By Bryan Richardson

As 2012 comes on the horizon, education in Manhattan could be in the beginning stages of taking a drastically different look.

Two definite changes for USD 383 — redistricting and construction — will be done during the year. However, the proposal for a new school finance formula could be the biggest change of all.

The redistricting action will get going early in the year with meetings Jan. 5 and 12 before a recommendation is scheduled to go before the board Jan. 18. Final board approval would take place Feb. 1.

Adjustments will follow the board approval for the rest of the school year.  Staffing adjustments will be made by the administration in March and April. In April and May, school visits and communication will be done. Finally, the plan is to be implemented in August.

The redistricting effort is being implemented next school year to accommodate the additional space at Lee Elementary, which recently completed its transition from a small elementary school to a large one. This effort along with others is a part of the $97.5 million bond issue passed by voters in 2008.

After the start of the projects in 2009, the district is working toward finishing the remainder of the renovation and construction projects during 2012. Manhattan High, the biggest project in the $97.5 million bond issue, will be completed for the start of the 2012-13 school year. Ongoing projects that will be finished during the course of the year are Woodrow Wilson (January), Theodore Roosevelt (March), Bluemont (August) and Marlatt (August).

Other projects beginning during the year include Manhattan High East Campus, and Anthony and Eisenhower middle schools.

The decrease in school funding has been the major story of the past few school years with the school board having to make numerous budget cuts, which included positions left unfilled. That is not likely to change this school year, even with a plan that Gov. Sam Brownback thinks will solve the problem with the current school finance formula.

Brownback’s school finance formula proposal will be the major storyline for at least the first half of the year. Of course, this would have an even longer impact should the legislature vote in favor of it.

Legislators will deal with the proposal this upcoming session. If passed, the changes would take place for the 2013-14 school year. The key details of the plan include:

• The base state aid per pupil being set at the statutory amount of $4,492.

• The 20 mills collected in state property taxes currently kept by districts will now go into a property tax equalization fund. Money will be redistributed to school districts based on a formula that gives more to school districts with lower property tax valuations.

• Removal of the cap on the local option budget.

• Previous restrictions on how a district spends the money will be removed with the elimination of weightings in the formula.

• The district will receive a base line amount from the state; equalization fund payments are capped at 106 percent of a district’s base line amount.

Under the formula, USD 383 will be one of the districts held harmless, meaning it wouldn’t lose any money from state funding compared to the previous year. However, it appears that the weightings payment, which gave the district around $8.12 million this school year, won’t continue under the proposal.

Board members contend that the proposal doesn’t really solve the problems with school funding; board president Doug Messer said the only problem with the current formula is a lack of state funding being put into it. They have indicated their plans to lobby local legislators about the potential plight of the district.

Thursday: A look at 2012 at Kansas State University.

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