Robinson Education Center

Robinson Education Center

Amid expected cuts in state funding, the Manhattan-Ogden school district will also have to contend with a $2.1 million hike in its insurance costs, director of business Lew Faust told the school board Wednesday.

Earlier in May, the district’s Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance representative told administrators that the district’s insurance plan likely would see an increase because the district has a high usage rate. Faust’s first estimate anticipated a $1.7 million increase in renewal costs, but on Thursday he said the cost would top $2.1 million to keep the district’s current plan.

Faust said the district doesn’t have many options left, as the district’s high usage history means other companies will not bid for the district’s insurance contract.

Ahead of the summer budgeting season, Faust put together a rough estimate of the district’s financial position heading into the next school year. Under a previously expected rise in state funding for schools, the district likely would have seen $1.66 million in new funding authority, but increased baseline costs are also expected to rise $2.82 million, leading to a $1.16 million deficit before the board even decides on budget requests from the district.

That deficit likely will increase over the next few weeks, Faust said, as the state probably will cut some school funding in the face of an estimated $653.5 million deficit in the state budget next year. Education makes up about 52% of the state’s budget and almost certainly would see some effects of any budget slashing.

Faust said there hasn’t been any decision on funding cuts at the state level yet, but state legislators and education leaders have floated a 10% reduction, mostly as an example but also as a possible scenario. That scenario would amount to an approximate $4.6 million budget reduction for Manhattan-Ogden, he said.

The board will continue its budget discussions over the next couple of months.

In other business

Teachers and administrators collaborated with the Flint Hills Wisdom Keepers to learn how to integrate Native American culture and history into district classes, officials said during a diversity report on the district’s Native American curriculum.

This year, the district implemented a “Native Voices” middle school class as well as an Indigenous Peoples independent study class at the high school.

The board also voted to keep school meal prices flat to avoid a potential decrease in the number of students who purchase meals.

Board members approved the following purchases:

• $27,980 for virtual reality units and support materials for the high school’s health science and biomedical pathways

• $36,600 for two used forklifts for the maintenance department

• $39,533 in fire alarm repairs at Manhattan High East Campus

The board also approved a $141,000 amendment to the guaranteed maximum price for Eisenhower Middle School, $184,000 for Anthony Middle School and $40,000 for College Hill Early Learning Center after additional code requirements were identified for the bond projects.

The board next meets Wednesday for a special session after superintendent Marvin Wade requested the board convene to approve a recommendation for the new Northview Elementary School principal and to discuss reopening plans for next school year.