BY ANGIE HAFLICH
HOLCOMB — The Holcomb USD 363 Board of Education on Monday night heard about the possibility of substitute teachers being required to receive health care, a progress report about the Holcomb Elementary School remodel, and Holcomb Mayor Gary Newman asked for the board's support of the proposed hotel development site at the intersection of Big Lowe and Jones roads.
USD 363 Superintendent Jean Rush shared a couple of concerns that arose from a presentation about the Affordable Care Act that Mike Davis, district treasurer, attended.
The first concern, Rush said, involves the possibility of being required to pay part-time employees health care benefits.
"The other big concern is the latest interpretation that we have, is that will include substitute teachers, which have always been exempt, which is a huge monkey wrench in this whole thing because it means we will probably have to provide health insurance for substitute teachers," Rush said.
Board President Tim Miller asked Davis if that was only for those part-time employees and substitute teachers who work a certain number of hours a week, and Davis said his understanding is that anyone averaging 30 hours per week is considered full-time and must be provided coverage. However, Rush didn't think that the average number of hours worked per week in determining full-time status had yet been clarified, so she told the board that the situation would continue to be monitored.
In other business, Rush and Rob McCallister, USD 363 director of building and grounds, showed board members photos of progress being made with the Holcomb Elementary School remodeling project, including duct work, some electrical work, framing and window installation.
"Today, the bricklayer showed up and he bricked in the old office entrance and closet," McCallister said.
Rush said that the project is currently on schedule.
Newman updated the board about the proposed hotel development site and also asked the board for its support of the project.
"We need all the support we can get to get more steam rolling in the community. I mean, it's taken a long time to get this done," Newman told board members.
Newman said that with increasingly tight budgets, he feels that the hotel development will provide a much needed revenue source for both the city of Holcomb and USD 363.
"We hear positive feedback about it. We've heard some negative feedback about it, with concerns about the impact to what a development like this would do to a small market and stuff like that. But with the prospective changes coming up in legislation in how property taxes are calculated, we're looking at some potential substantial cuts, and any time we can generate some additional tax dollars, all tax dollars, whether it be through retail sales or through property taxes, it's something I think the school district would certainly benefit from, especially knowing that these funds would still come to the school district."
Miller asked Newman if any other businesses in addition to the hotel were coming in. Newman said that while several restaurants and two gas stations have expressed interest, nothing is official.
Board Member Mary Ann Bennett posed the question about the viability of a hotel in Holcomb, with the hotel availability in Garden City.
Newman said that both the prospective hotelier and developer have conducted research that indicates the hotel would be viable.
"Typically, if you try to get a hotel in Garden City Monday through Thursday, it's very hard to get a room. You have to call a week in advance. There's a lot of business coming through here," Newman said. "If we can have the employees from Tyson and Sunflower, I don't have the specific numbers in front of me, but they were confident they would be able to keep that hotel full just with Tyson and Sunflower travelers coming through."
The board took no action regarding Newman's request for support.