Archive for Wednesday, September 5, 2012

School board reviews funding updates, woes

September 5, 2012

The USD 204 Board of Education Monday reviewed several items related to the district’s finances and funding, expressing concerns for the next two years.

The board reviewed the status of the district’s bonds and debt service payments with Eric Hansen, business and human resources manager, as well as expenses to update its books for the new Common Core State Standards. Superintendent Robert VanMaren also shared some discussion from a recent meeting he had with other Wyandotte County superintendents on the status of the state’s education funding.

The board first discussed the costs it would incur for new elementary reading materials that correlate with the Common Core State Standards, and some board members were surprised at the costs.

“That’s an awful lot of money,” Tim McGinnis, board member, said.

But VanMaren and Hansen said the cost could be more, as the district negotiated a deal with the series provider to adopt the series over two years and receive “new adoption discounts,” and some online applications will be provided for free.

For the Reading Street 2013 for grades kindergarten through second, the final cost for the district is estimated at $77,529, which the board will be asked to approve at its next meeting. The reading textbook series is already used by the district, so teachers already are trained on how to use the materials.

For third through fifth grades, which will need to be upgraded during the 2013-14 school year, the cost is estimated at $90,000.

The district has not purchased a new reading series since 2006-07. VanMaren told the board that were the district to upgrade all of its materials for the new standards at once, the estimated cost would be about $1 million.

The board also reviewed the semiannual bond and interest and debt service payment report. On Friday, the district will make the first of two semiannual debt service payments, totaling $2,733,776. The payment will involve paying down $1.9 million of the district’s bond indebtedness, the rest covering interest payments.

The district receives 28 percent state aid in its debt service fund, so the state will send a payment of $707,644 to offset the total cost of the transaction.

After the payment is complete, the district’s total indebtedness will be $32.79 million.

VanMaren then told the board of the “serious” discussion he had with other county superintendents about their concerns about the future of school funding.

With little support for replacing the state’s 1 percent sales tax, the state’s budget looks like it will be $1.2 billion behind, and cuts for education were more than likely.

“You’re going to hear that education will be held harmless — that is not possible mathematically,” VanMaren said.

He told the board to pay attention as the Supreme Court case concerning education funding was decided sometime in the next three months and to communicate concerns with their constituents.

“While we can make it through this year because we’ve done some good budgeting, I am very, very concerned about the next two years,” he said. “There is no way we can offer the services that we’re offering now with these projections.

“I’ve never felt as poorly about funding from the state… in the 30 years I’ve done this,” he added.

Board members Jeff Barger and Jeff Tinberg did not attend the meeting.

In other business, the board:

• Approved warrants totaling $93,712.

• Approved an engagement letter between the district and George K. Baum & Co. extending the district’s agreement for financial consulting and advisory services.