By Karen Jacobs
HALSTEAD – The annual budget for Halstead-Bentley USD 440 is published in today's Independent after approval from the board of education Monday. For residents of the district, there will be a slight increase in taxes of 1.89 mills over the 2011-2012 year. The biggest reason for the increase is a $500,000 loss in assessed valuations in the district combined with a 10 percent decrease in state equalization of supplemental general funds. Last year 1 mill was equal to $74,000 in the general fund for USD 440. This year that same 1 mill is worth $68,103. For the USD 440 taxpayers, a 1.89 mill increase equals $17.80 on a $100,000 home per year. Superintendent Cory Gibson said he checked into why the assessed valuation of the district dropped when Sedgwick and Burrton both went up. He was told it was due to decreased production in oil and that some oil wells had been capped in the area. When planning for this year's budget, Gibson was not planning for a decrease in valuations so it was a surprise. Cost-saving measures and money the district has been saving for surprises like this helped to offset the loss of revenue to the district. Three phases of cost saving measures and budget cuts have been made in the district over the last year, saving the district $167,681. Gibson will also use 40 percent of the district's contingency reserve money ($347,021) to make up for the loss of funding and increase in costs for the up coming year of $551,764. But the 1.89 mil raise and those cuts and use of reserve money is still not enough. The district is still short $44,000. Gibson will use his discretion to make further reductions or postponement of purchases to make up for that amount. Gibson said this year utilities such as the gas, electric and water will be paid out of supplemental general fund because the general fund (funding from the state) no longer has enough funds to pay those bills. Capital Outlay has no new money coming to the fund. "Capital Outlay is the fund that scares me the most," said Gibson. "We are OK now but I'm afraid this may catch up to us." Gibson said that they are putting off replacement and maintenance and just doing day-to-day operations, and at some point that will all catch up and there is not any money in capital outlay for those projects. Federal funds for the district stayed flat this year with bond and interest expense going down slightly. Gibson pointed out this is the first year that there really is a case of the haves and the have nots with the state taking away the equalization. He used Johnson County as an example, saying they will receive 20 percent more per student than USD 440.The budget hearing will be held Aug. 8, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the board room at the district office. This was the first official meeting of the 2011-2012 school year, with many yearly organizational items on the agenda. Bret Talbott was elected board president with Gary Warner vice president. New members were welcomed aboard, Michael Davison, Randy O'Neal and Shawn Kohr.
A gift of $565 was accepted to buy books for the middle school and high school from the Makiya Ritthaler memorial fund.
Yearly appointments and adoptions were approved. The meeting day and time will remain the same as in the past on the second Monday at 7 p.m. each month.
The cost of meals for students is going up 10 cents per meal. For adults (teachers and staff) the meal will go up 20 cents. Also going up are textbook fees from $40 to $55 for K-5 and $65 for 6-12 grades. There, however, is not a fee for towels or technology this year.
Activity passes have been reduced from $15 to $10. There is also a new fee schedule for sports and activities such as debate, vocal and instrumental music and other activities. Sports is $25 (same as last year) but other activities will be ($15) per sport or activity with a maximum of $50 annually per student or $85 per household.
Updated versions of five policies had their first reading. Those include 18.1 Child Abuse GAAD; 18.2 Workers Compensation GAOE & GAOE-2; 18.3 Reporting to Law Enforcement JDDB; 18.4 Crowd Control at School Sponsored Activities KGD; 18.5 Student Records JRB.
The final action of the meeting was approval of hiring Erika Anderson, third grade teacher, Cynthia Weber, kindergarten teacher, Tony Hoops, assistant football coach, Derrick Hibler, freshman sponsor, James Caldwell, freshman sponsor and Blake Ervin, food permanent sub.