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School officials looking to cut budget

3/2/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

The end of the fiscal year June 30 won't mean the end of Hays USD 489's budget woes.

This year there was a $1.3 million shortfall, in part because of projected enrollment increases that didn't happen.

"When they (administrators) budgeted last year for those 90 (students) and spent it, it all came to a head," Superintendent Dean Katt said.

Administrators expect to have to cut that same amount next year too, he said.

The state is adding $14 to the base state aid per pupil "which isn't a whole lot," Katt said.

An increase in enrollment would be a plus, but he isn't willing to bank on it.

District officials are working with building administrators on ways to cut the budget, and have dusted off a fiscal year 2012 list of possible general fund reductions prepared by the former administration.

"A lot of the same things on that list are on there again," Katt said. "Whether it's reduction in force, non-tenured staff, pay cuts -- all of those things were mentioned before, and we'll look at those things."

However, Katt noted some cuts would have to be negotiated with the Hays-NEA bargaining unit, and Kim Schneweis, Hays-NEA president and bargaining unit co-chair, agreed.

"We'll look at how we teach K-12. ... I don't want to say specifically because there's so much more that goes into it than just class size," Katt said.

Decisions about staff will come quickly.

Katt said the contract with the H-NEA bargaining unit states "re-employment of all teachers shall be acted upon by the first (board) meeting in April. With the notification date, we just can't wait 'til later to say," he said.

Schneweis said the board might be required to discuss staff numbers in April, but the deadline to notify of non-renewal is in May.

Even if staff reductions are needed, Schneweis thinks they might be accomplished by attrition.

"I would expect to have enough people retire or resign," Schneweis said. "You can only cut so far before the students suffer."

Except for the years 2003 to 2005, the district has ended each year in the red since 1997, including this year, Katt said.

School districts can't end the year with a negative balance in the general fund, so USD 489 delayed transferring its assessment to the Hays West Central Kansas Special Education Cooperative until the next fiscal year, he said.

"You were always a year behind -- borrowing money, robbing Peter to pay Paul," he said.

Despite the cuts made in custodians' overtime and teachers' supply budgets, transferring money from the drivers ed fund and depleting the contingency reserves, the payment will be delayed again this year.

"Not that we want to, but there's no other option," Katt said.

Co-op members' assessment has gone down the last several years "to leave more money in the general fund, I say for the districts, but the main reason is Hays needed as much money in the general fund as they could get," he said.

The co-op's carryover fund has dwindled as well, which means the assessments likely will increase.

"Next year we have to come up with $550,000 more for special ed, and they knew that was coming. Mark (Hauptman, assistant superintendent of special services) told past administration that's what's going to happen when you don't make that payment big enough," Katt said.