Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer
The board held a public hearing on the proposed budget, and no members of the public addressed the board.
The first day of the 2017-18 school year had been Aug. 16, and Eric Reid, Asst. Superintendent, reported on preliminary enrollment numbers. Mr. Reid said the district has been retaining more students for longer periods than has been the pattern in the past. He said the biggest change was at the high school level, but some of the students included in the count may not be returning, so the number isn’t very firm. Elementary enrollment was estimated to have increased approximately 86 students, middle school increased by approximately 26 students, and high school increased by 83, but the high school number was less accurate. Mr. Reid commented that the district doesn’t have the physical places to put kids into classrooms and added that the district has the kids and the rooms, but sometimes the numbers don’t match up right, meaning sometimes students have to be shifted to where a school has space. Darell Edie commented that the district had added three new elementary classrooms, and the elementary level is still full. Dave Colburn asked if classrooms had spilled into any of the rooms designated for specials (i.e. music, art, etc.). Mr. Reid said that Northview Elementary had used its overflow flex space and has probably lost some flexibility.
The board discussed the 2017-18 budget and where to set the capital outlay mill levy. Lew Faust, Dir. of Business Services, informed the board that $254,000 for security needs had been moved from a level two priority to level one. Mr. Faust also mentioned a few expensive items, such as roofs, will be coming up as needing to be addressed, and money could be set aside in anticipation of the expenses. Mr. Colburn asked if the levy would be set at 8.0 mills or 7.5 mills, and Mr. Faust answered that 7.5 mills would fund the proposed projects and 8.0 mills would help with cash flow and with setting funds aside for fiscal year 2019. Mr. Colburn said that USD 383 has one of the highest mill levies when compared to similar districts if one discounts the bond and interest fund. For residential property taxes, a flat mill levy would cause an increase of $40, a mill levy of 55.372 would cause an increase of $49, and a mill levy set at 56.270 would cause an increase of $61. Aaron Estabrooks commented that what he expected would happen in Topeka if the district doesn’t use all of its authority is legislators will say, “Why didn’t you?” He added that we don’t know what will happen with the Supreme Court, and we don’t want to tie our hands. Curt Herrman commented that he liked administration’s original proposal because of the sales tax that will be on the ballot and because the district will probably have a bond issue coming up. Leah Fliter commented that the sales tax on the ballot won’t be an increase and will redirect a current tax. Ms. Fliter moved to set the levy at 56.270 mills with capital outlay set at 8.0 mills. Mr. Colburn said he liked administration’s original proposal and said it’s an unpleasant choice either way. Anticipating that the vote might split 3-3, the board discussed calling absent member Marcia Rozell for her vote. Mr. Colburn said that given the dilemma the board was facing in needing to get the budget finalized, he would support the motion but wanted it noted that he did so under protest. The motion was approved 4-2, with Mr. Colburn, Mr. Estabrooks, Ms. Fliter, and Pat Hudgins voting in favor, and Mr. Herrman and Mr. Edie voting against.