The McPherson USD 418 Board of Education is no stranger to tough decisions. On Monday, the board approved yet another round of budget cuts a little more than a week after state legislators approved substantial decreases in education funding.
Lawmakers approved a $232 per-pupil funding cut for the upcoming school year. District Superintendent Dr. Randy Watson said funding levels have now returned to mid-1990s levels.
The funding cuts were not easy for districts to absorb and Watson warned Monday that funding cuts could continue for the next three years.
“This year really was a mild year,” Watson said. “Next year could be really bad across the state. Many people have used up all their cash reserves. We could see thousands of teachers and support staff laid off if something doesn’t change.”
The cuts approved by board members totaled $650,000. More than half of that total ($480,737) comes from cash reserves. The district has about $2 million in various funds that are now in reserve. Monday’s vote allocated about a fourth of those reserves.
Other cuts include:
-Reduce staff at McPherson High School, the physical education position being vacated by Gordon Peck would be eliminated -$40,000
-Reduce elementary librarians, eliminate the position held by Nora Jones, who is also retiring, elementary libraries would be staffed by one elementary libraries and four certified assistants - $40,000
-Eliminate national AVID training and program, the district will continue to use the AVID model but will not attend training and will not use the AVID program name - $20,000
-Cut end-of-year transfers for middle and high school activities – gate receipts would be used to make up the funding difference, the money is used to fund field trips, band, debate and sports - $15,000
-Eliminate MAC secretary – eliminate the secretary position at the McPherson Alternative Center, the person in the position is retiring at the end of the year - $15,000
-Combine MHS bookkeeper position with the central office staff – the middle school is losing a bookkeeper, a district office employee has volunteers to take on the duties - $15,000
-Raise textbook fees $5 per student – fees will go from $70 to $75 - $11,000
-Require all students to fill out a free/reduced lunch application during enrollment – the district receives additional funding for all students that qualify for free and reduced lunches, the students don’t have to use the program but the district can still get credit and funding from the state - $10,000 (estimate)
-Reduce petty cash limits by 50 percent – reducing petty cash will keep more money in the general fund - $3,262.50
-Transfer cash reserves – USD 418 has $2 million in cash reserves, the board proposes moving $480,737 from its reserves leaving about $1.5 million for the following year.
During Monday’s meeting, the board also approved a bid from Plenert Construction for $37,414.69 for concrete work at McPherson Middle School. The bid was the last of two received by the district and is well under the budgeted amount. The money for the concrete project will come from the capital outlay fund.
The board also gave Director of Operations Sheldon Anderson approval to collect bids for parking lot improvements at McPherson High School. The district has budgeted $50,000 for the next three years for concrete and asphalt improvements in the parking lot. This year’s work will focus on the parking lot outside the food service entrance. Anderson said he has concerns with concrete failure in the area given the number of heavy trucks that travel in the area daily.
In other meeting news:
•The board accepted a donation of team shirts for the MHS golf team valued at $500 from McPherson Professional Cleaning Service; two $150 donations from Brent and Julie Milleson to the MMS gifted program and Lincoln Elementary School’s physical education program and an anonymous donation of $200 to the district to purchase eight Rights and Responsibilities posters
•The board honored several McPherson High School students for accomplishments in music, sports and carpentry at the state level.
•Watson reviewed course enrollment at the middle school and high school level. Part of the district’s Citizenship, College and Career Ready program is making sure students are taking the correct courses to be prepared to either enter the workforce or college after graduation. Watson said the number of students who indicate they will attend college after graduation was much larger than the number of students enrolled in upper level courses. Watson said the district is working to get students into the upper level courses, which better prepare them for college.
•The board approved spending $132,667.50 for new math textbooks for sixth through 12th grade. The books have complementary online resources.
•The board approved a new course at MMS. The Access to Career Experience (ACE) class is designed for special education students and will help teach them pre-vocational skills. Most of the students in course would qualify for the extended state standards. The course will use real life skills and situations to teach standards. Principal Brad Plackemeier said the course will streamline much of what the school is already doing. Director of Instruction Angie McDonald said the $1,000 start-up cost will be paid for using special education funds.