USD383 budget work underway

By Bryan Richardson

USD 383 would need to find around $950,000 in new revenues or reduce proposed spending increases by that amount in order to balance their 2012-13 school year budget, according to information presented at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

District officials told board members that the district will receive a $58 increase in the base state aid per pupil, raising it from $3,780 this year to $3,838 next school year. It is the first state aid increase since the 2008-09 school year, and will net around $400,000 in additional money. The $950,000 gap between proposed spending and revenue is above and beyond that increase.

The district will have a total statutory budget authority of about $47 million, which is about $1 million more than this year.

So far, the only confirmed budget increase involves $230,700 in new staffing. The district will hire three elementary school teachers, one special education early childhood teacher, one special education autism teacher, a nurse at Lee and Woodrow Wilson elementary schools, a principal’s assistant at Lee and Marlatt elementary schools and a speech therapist.

An assistant principal at Manhattan High West Campus could be added to the new staffing. The administration said the position wouldn’t be filled unless there’s a qualified candidate.

Supt. Bob Shannon told board members it might be too late to start the process of hiring an assistant principal for the start of school in August. “Chances are not good, but you don’t know unless you try,” he said.

One thing the district won’t have to worry about is an increase in health insurance premiums, which will stay steady. “That hasn’t happened anytime recently,” budget director Lew Faust said.

Shannon led a salary and wage analysis work session before the meeting. This served as preliminary information to possibly develop a multi-year plan to increase salaries for district employees.

The district used for comparison during this session was Lawrence. USD 383’s average salary and benefits for teachers this school year is $49,757 while Lawrence paid $51,378. The average of school districts above USD 383 was $53,475.

Based on a 20-year earning analysis by the state department of education, USD 383 teachers would make $978,885, ranking 74th out of the state’s 286 districts. Lawrence teachers would make $1,038,429, ranking 24th.

Shannon said it would cost more than $860,000 to catch up with Lawrence’s average teacher salary. He said the administration would like future board consideration of a two-year plan to increase salaries in order to reach Lawrence.

Board member Darell Edie said he would be worried about raising salaries too fast. Other board members wanted to get more information on the differences between USD 383 and Lawrence.

Other talks during the session concerned maintenance workers (above average pay) and principals (below average pay).

Board member Curt Herrman noted that 39 of the 43 paraeducators who resigned had been with the district less than two years. “They stay until they find something better and move on,” he said.

He said it’s important to try to keep them around, especially those who work in special education, where consistency is needed.

The board approved a donation by the Manhattan High football program to pay for one assistant football coach at Eisenhower and Anthony middle schools. Coach Joe Schartz donated $4,200 from the team’s Gold Card fundraiser fund to make this happen.

As of right now, it is a one-time donation, but MHS athletic director Mike Marsh said the team generally raises $18,000 to $22,000, which could make it possible for the money to be donated again.

This will increase the number of players for each team. The combination 7th and 8th grade team will go from a maximum of 55 players to a maximum of 70 players.

Board member Walt Pesaresi approved it but said he had concerns about inconsistent team numbers should the board not be able to fund it. “I just don’t want it to be one year we have 70 kids and the next year we have 50 because the board’s not going to fund it,” he said.

The board also approved the placement of two pre-kindergarten classrooms in a mobile unit at Theodore Roosevelt. “We really thought that downtown needed a quality preschool,” Pam Russell, special services director, said.

The continued use of mobile units after the district’s construction and renovation was discussed earlier in the meeting.

Pesaresi said the benefits of improving building security are lost for the students in the mobile units, but acknowledged that buildings are full. “This is like having the fence 80 percent complete and having a hole for semis to drive through,” he said.

Board member Pete Paukstelis said it’s the best option that they have, but conceded that “It’s not ideal to have them in a mobile unit.”

Board vice-president Dave Colburn spoke briefly about the death of Jeune Kirmser, a fixture at board meetings for more than a half century. Kirmser, 91, died Monday at the Meadowlark Hills Retirement Community. The school board meetings are held in the Kirmser Conference Room, named in her honor years ago.

Colburn called her death an “immeasurable loss to our community.” He said Kirmser meant “a great deal” to him as a board member and remembered when she contacted him to give “advice and counsel” when he first was selected to the board.

“From there, it grew into a friendship,” he said. “I greatly valued getting to spend time with Jeune and learning about her incredible life. It was a life well lived.”

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