School board to finalize budget

By The Mercury

The USD 383 school board will vote to finalize the 2013-14 budget during its meeting at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday at the Robinson Education Center. A public hearing on the budget will be held prior to the meeting at 6:20 p.m.

The budget being considered contains a 52.464 mill levy, an increase of 2.019 mills. Factoring in average valuation changes, the average homeowner will face an increase of property taxes from about $997 to about $1,070.

Taxes on a business worth $500,000 would increase from about $6,300 to about $6,558.

During the Aug. 7 meeting, the board voted 4-3 on the budget with the dissent coming from board vice-president Leah Fliter, Aaron Estabrook and Darell Edie. They expressed concern about the budget reducing the district’s reserve funds too much.

The district is using $810,000 from its reserve funds to fill the $1.6 million budget gap. The remainder comes from the tax increase.

The board will also hear a report on the College Hill Preschool facility evaluation. This is the second facility study to come forward to the school board this year with the other being the Manhattan High east campus.

Like the MHS East study, this is related to the facility not being a part of the 2008 bond issue for school renovations, which helped keep the cost down under $100 million at $97.5 million.

The facility, which serves 108 three-, four- and five-year-old students, was built in 1862 with additions built in 1954 and 1960. Based on the total needs, BG Consultants said the renovations would cost nearly $1.38 million and building a new preschool would cost around $1.35 million.

The school board will also vote on closing the purchase of the 30.79 acres of land in Pottawatomie County along Lake Elbo Road, which is near the edge of the district. The board approved the purchase after BG Consultants told members that the land could be used for a new elementary school.

The board has mentioned the possible need for a new elementary school in recent years. Based on an Aug. 14 preliminary enrollment report, first grade has 508 students enrolled.

If the number holds, this would be the first time since 1994 that USD 383 has more than 500 students in the first grade.

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