The Garden City USD 457 Board of Education on Monday heard updates on the district’s budget and recruiting strategies.

District Financial Officer KJ Knoll presented the proposed 2018-19 budget, completing the first of three steps to approve the budget before the beginning of the upcoming school year in mid-August. On Aug. 6, the board will discuss and decide whether to publish the budget and will hold a public hearing on the budget Aug. 20.

Knoll said the under the budget proposal, the general fund would be $52.7 million, a $2.1 million increase from the previous year. The local option budget would echo this year’s $16.8 million. The mill levy would be 48.80, the same rate as the previous two years, meaning the owner of a $150,000 house would pay $841.80 to the district.

Student enrollment has declined slightly from the previous year, but the district’s assessed valuation is the highest it’s been in over a decade. The valuation for the 2018 tax year is $362,680,632, compared to 2017's $348,049,387.

The budget is not entirely complete at the moment, Knoll said. Because the Kansas Supreme Court’s school finance ruling clipped the amount of time she had to formulate the budget, she said she still needed to include sections on federal funds and gifts and grants. Neither section will affect the mill levy, though.

The board also heard a recruiting update from Deputy Superintendent Heath Hogan, breaking down the district’s filled and open position heading into the new school year. Seventy-three employees left the district last year, 12 by retirement and 61 by resignation, Hogan said, which is 15 fewer than the previous year.

The district has filled 65 positions, but still has approximately 32 vacancies, 10 fewer than the district faced going into the 2017-18 school year, Hogan said. The number still reflects the third year in a row the district has faced over 20 vacancies, and the fourth year in a row it’s faced over 10.

The trend has led to more diligent and expansive recruiting efforts, Hogan said. The district has increased the number of states from which it actively searches for employees for the past five years, and increased the number of career fairs it visits for the last six. Ahead of the 2018-19 school year, he said, the district sought teachers in 19 states and at 45 job fairs.

The district also is considering programs to combat the number of teachers leaving the district in the long term. Hogan said teacher exit surveys pinpointed three reasons for leaving: wanting to be closer to family, following a transferred spouse and not feeling comfortable in the rural Kansas environment or lifestyle.

Hogan pointed to the district’s “Grow Your Own” program, in which high school students are given resources and opportunities for scholarships to get a jumpstart on a career in education, as a way to combat future employees’ concerns about being far from family.

Employee incentives, student teaching incentives and alternative teaching licensing programs will continue to help the district fill positions in the meantime, Hogan said. Moving forward, he said he hopes to place added focus on social media and advertising campaigns for positions, staff retention and creating a local career fair.

In other business:

• The district’s autism team broke down the benefits of attending and participating in the Kansas State Department of Education Technical Assistance System Network Autism and Tertiary Behavior Supports summer conference, which gives instructors of neurodiverse students access to practices and resources that can help them best serve their students. The conferences are free, but the team thanked the district for covering travel expenses, time off and materials to carry out new classroom structures and projects.

All board members except Lara Bors and Tim Cruz were present. The next meeting will be 6 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Educational Support Center.