The USD 418 Board of Education held a budget hearing before Monday’s regular meeting.

The USD 418 Board of Education held a budget hearing before Monday’s regular meeting.

“The purpose of this hearing is to tell the public how high the budget could possibly be, since we won't spend anything higher,” explained Gordon Mohn, director of operations and board clerk.

The board adopted the 2016-2017 budget, set at $48,350,836 with the tax rate at 49.643 mills — the lowest it’s been since 2007. The district’s property value increased by about 5.1 percent, which allows the district to lower the mill levy by 1.114 mills.

“Our assessed value per pupil goes down, since we're a wealthy district,” Mohn said. “Poor districts get more state aid because they can't generate more mills like wealthier districts can.”

This school year is the second of block grant funding. The district’s general fund will decrease slightly because Roosevelt and Lincoln Elementary Schools are no longer under new facilities weighting.

Superintendent’s report

Superintendent Mark Crawford reported on graduation rates over the past few years. He explained that at-risk students have relatively positive graduation rates, even with the high standards of the College, Career and Community, or C3, initiative.

Over the past five years, 96 students are registered as dropouts, which includes students who left the district for homeschooling, a change in foster parents, other programs or moved and never re-registered at another school.

“Our system didn't suit them or didn't meet their needs,” Crawford said. “We poured in a lot of effort to connect with them. However, we still have improvement needed there."

Crawford pointed out that as an innovative school district, USD 418 will look at ways to reimagine how the district can meet needs, perhaps through competency testing or more trades offered.

“Once they come as freshmen, we feel a great deal of responsibility toward their educations and want to see them through,” Crawford said.

Purchases

Board members, and students at Eisenhower Elementary School, were surprised with broken air conditioning this week. Sheldon Anderson, director of facilities, explained that half of the chiller unit failed after starting up for school.

The 20-year-old chiller, with an expected 15-year life span, will be replaced this weekend at the cost of $123,745. Anderson said that the unit will be replaced quickly with a chiller from South Carolina, and much of the expensive freon inside can be salvaged.

Salary discussion

Board members discussed potential changes to the classified staff wage scale. Proposed changes could raise each starting pay by about 2 percent to offer a competitive wage.

The only concern was that changes could not be sustained over time if state funding changes drastically. At the next meeting, Mohn will present more information about the wage scale and affects of potential changes.

Head Start

Garie Jean Brownrigg gave a presentation on the Head Start program and how the federal and district funding is used.

About 20 percent of the Head Start budget must come from the community to be matched with government funding, so USD 418 stays involved with the program to support the 70 McPherson students attending the McPherson and Marion County classes. This year, Head Start has made a few changes to the eligibility verification process.

Clerk’s report

Mohn reported that on the first day of school, 2,488 students were enrolled in the district. This means that enrollment numbers are growing, but not unsustainably.

Mohn also reported on the increase in cost of health insurance. He explained that no changes to the plan will be implemented at this time, as there are several variables that need to be finalized first before knowing what the district can spend.

Gifts

Board members also accepted gifts from several area business and clubs totaling $550 for the Early Childhood Program’s health literacy parent event on Sept. 22. The Early Childhood Program also received a donation of $440 in memory of Jeanie Harden, a past Early Childhood employee. Also, the USD 418 Art Preservation Fund received a donation in the amount of $175.45 from the High School Class of 1946.