USD 457 board moves forward with program budgeting




USD 457 school district officials have cut more than $6 million in funds since the economic downturn of 2008.

More cuts could be on the horizon since the district is projected to receive the same base student aid per pupil as last year — $3,838.

Kathleen Whitley, chief financial officer for the district, informed the USD 457 Board of Education of cuts made during the past six years during a board retreat Monday night.

Although the state aid per pupil remains the same, the district will need more money to operate.

"For the school year next year, we're looking at the same amount of students. The budget will remain flat but we know we're going to have an increase in expenditures including utilities and insurance," she said.

Raises for teachers also are in question.

A 1 percent increase for all employees would mean $450,000 in expenses for the district, she said.

The board has the authority to raise the local option budget, which is currently at 25 percent of the total budget. The board has the authority to raise it to 30 percent. Statewide, Garden City is among the lowest in local tax burdens, Whitley said Monday night.

Rick Atha, superintendent, said the board can make cuts, or raise the LOB.

"You have the authority as a board to increase the LOB. It's certainly not something we're recommending, but you have that budget authority," he said.

In order to outline potential cuts, the district has program budgeting in place.

Program budgeting is a process by which staff and community members prioritize funding for each of the district's 15 represented programs, ultimately recommending to the USD 457 Board of Education how much money they believe each should receive.

Programs recommended to be funded fully are elementary and middle school education, as well as health services.

Eleven other programs are recommended to be funded at 98 percent, which could mean a cut of 17.5 positions in the district, totaling $800,000. Programs funded at 98 percent include high school instruction, special education, technology, counseling, transportation, media services, curriculum/assessment, supplemental services, plant facilities/maintenance, building administration, district-wide administration and activities.

The positions slated to be cut will include a high school teacher, two special education teachers, a half-position counselor, four bus drivers, four custodians, a painter, two bilingual paraprofessionals, two half-time library paras, an assistant principal and three special education paras.

The board members also heard from technology officials who reported on the first year of the 1-to-1 iPad initiative at Garden City High School.

Technology officials said the program needs some improvement, but overall the first year was positive.

"None of us are content at this time. There are some challenges, but they will only get better from here," Roxie Schafer, senior coordinator of technology, said.

Among those challenges are management, filtering and locating the devices when they are off campus and lost or stolen.

Casey Wise, technology mentor, reported 60 devices were broken and turned in for repairs — less than 3 percent of the total devices; six devices reported lost/stolen; and 10 devices that had warranty-related issues.

Layne Schiffelbein, coordinator of instructional technology, said potential pages not printed were 1,492,167, at an approximate savings of $82,069, at an average of $2,564 per week.

"And that's just if they were printing one sheet," she said.

The tech team said the iPads helped solve some discipline problems, including tracing instances of bullying or drug use.

Rene Scott, associate principal in the Academy of Trade and Health Sciences, said some students were using screen shots to document misconduct.

"We also caught some drug use where the kids were emailing back and forth. I don't think that's a bad thing. It keeps us on top of that," she said.

Schiffelbein said the students are learning the permanency of their digital footprints.

"It's better to learn that in high school than to be on the job and get fired for it," she said.

Overall, the technology administrators said the experience has been positive. The iPad use and implementation has room for improvement as well, they said.

Mark Rude, board member, thanked the team for their efforts.

"It seems to be very successful," he said.

Jean Clifford, board president, said learning the technology will prepare students for their future.

"We're really preparing the students for that next step. Whatever that next step is, it's going to involve technology," she said.

The USD 457 Board of Education approved the 1-to-1 iPad initiative by a 5-2 vote in April. Parents or students pay a $40 insurance fee for the devices.

That insurance fee could drop in the future for students who have not broken, damaged or lost iPads, administrators said Monday.

The district is using iPad 2 instead of the latest "new iPad," which will save about $170,000 of the original cost reported to the board.

The previously discussed cost was $1,042,937. Using the iPad 2 instead, which technology administrators say is a fine device for student use, the district will spend $872,084.

In the second and third years, the money will come out of the supplemental general fund, Atha has said. The cost for the second and third year to the district will be $452,577 and $349,600, respectively.

Individual cost for each iPad is $379, plus $19 for the case and $15 for the apps.

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