EDITOR'S NOTE: A look back at some of the top stories from 2014.
By JUDY SHERARD
Anticipating a $1.3 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year, the Hays USD 489 Board of Education looked for ways to cut expenses and increase revenue.
Last spring, administrators announced 19.9 total positions would be cut through reduction in force, non-renewals and attrition -- retirements and resignations.
Some who received non-renewal notices were rehired to fill openings created from other retirements, resignations and non-renewals.
Of those positions cut, 16 were certified staff members representing 13.5 full-time equivalent positions, creating larger class sizes, Superintendent Dean Katt said at the back-to-school staff meeting in August.
Personnel cuts also meant transfers and reassignments for others to fill the vacated slots.
The board also took steps to increase revenue -- adding a $150 kindergarten fee and increasing material fees to $160 per student. Activity fees increased $50 for one year only to $62 for middle school and $66 for high school students.
The board also made changes in transportation to cut costs. Students within a 2.5-mile radius of the student's attendance center no longer qualify for district transportation.
In April, the board voted to authorize a mail ballot election for a 1-percent local option budget increase. The mail election was in June.
The 30-percent LOB was estimated to raise $5,951,709 for the district; the requested additional 1 percent would have raised approximately $198,175.
If the 1-percent increase was approved by voters within a certain time frame, the state finance law included a provision that would allow the board of education to raise the LOB to 33 percent by vote of the board for one year before seeking needed approval from district voters to keep it at that level.
With a 38-percent voter turnout for the mail-ballot election, the increase was defeated by a margin of almost two to one.
The board also has been looking to the future and facilities needs planning.
A board-appointed facilities needs committee met for nearly two years to put together a long-range plan of improvements. Committee representatives made their recommendation to the board in September.
The plan includes deferred maintenance, additional space for classrooms, special-education needs, adequate storm shelters and upgraded security, and would cost approximately $100 million.
Board members are exploring the possibility of a bond proposal some time next year.