Archive for Thursday, August 22, 2002

District’s spring actions blunt budget ax

State cuts to have little effect on USD 232

August 22, 2002

Because of action taken last spring De Soto USD 232 will weather the latest round of state budget cuts, including $17.5 million in public education funding, with few consequences.

Deputy Superintendent Sharon Zoellner told the board of education Monday the cuts Gov. Bill Graves announced last week would cost the district about $330,000. The district prepared for that hit when it made Woodsonia Elementary an eastside kindergarten center. That action, coupled with the opening of Riverview Elementary, allowed the district to save money at Woodsonia and take full advantage of added state aid that comes with students enrolled in new classrooms.

Zoellner said a bigger concern was whether enrollment would approach the 3,890 full-time equivalent students used to figure the 2002-2003 budget.

"Last week we were at 3,820," she said. "I was panicked. It looks like we're going to get close to that number."

At the end of the school day Monday, the district's full-time equivalent enrollment was 3,872 and its actual student head count was 4,092. The state distributes state aid by the full-time equivalent enrollment formula that counts kindergarten and early childhood at-risk preschoolers as half of a student, and part-time students by the percentage of their credit load. The district reports its enrollment figures to the state Sept. 21.

The district was looking at two cost-saving measures because of the budget cuts, Zoellner said. It was evaluating field trips to learn how many trips are made and their purpose, she said.

Also, Mill Valley High School athletic director Roy Hawley suggested the school play its home soccer games on the high school's practice football field, Zoellner said. The move would save transportation costs to the team's five home games at the soccer field in De Soto, she said.

The district has responded to the increased enrollment with the hiring of two teachers, Superintendent Marilyn Layman said. One more will have to be hired to address large class sizes at Mize Elementary, which has an average of 26.3 students in its four fourth-grade sections and 27.7 students in its three fifth-grade sections.

Although it was suggested an additional teacher be added for a combined fourth- and fifth-grade classroom, District Human Resource Director Bill Gilhaus said Mize's fourth- and fifth-grade teachers agreed an additional fourth-grade section should be added.

Overall, classroom sizes have gone up as district administrators warned they would last spring, when the Legislature was discussing education budget cuts, Zoellner said.

The budget doesn't include revenue from the quarter-cent, three-year sales tax Johnson County voters approved Aug. 6. The tax faces a court challenge initiated by Wyandotte County school districts and Johnson County opponents.

Should it prevail in court, USD 232 would receive $2.1 million from the tax during its three-year life, Johnson County budget director Doug Robinson said. That sum would increase should the cities of De Soto, Lenexa and Shawnee contribute their share of the tax to the district, something the De Soto City Council has indicated it doesn't want to do.

Board member Sandy Thierer said Monday the board should decide whether to ask the cities for their share, acknowledging the cities would do so voluntarily.

"If we're not going to ask for it, I think we ought to let them know," she said.

She suggested the cities could spend the money on projects that would benefit the school district, citing the need for a traffic light at the 91st Street/Lexington Avenue intersection.

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