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Threat of school closure real but slim, superintendent says

News editor

USD 410 staff will get July 1 paychecks a day early as the specter of a statewide school shutdown over finances continues.

Legislators will be back in Topeka June 23 to address a state Supreme Court ruling about school financing that could close schools by shutting off funding July 1.

“If no money flows, schools can’t operate; it’s as simple as that,” Superintendent Steve Noble said. “It is highly unlikely that I believe this will ever occur, but we have to prepare.”

Board member Rod Koons said he was concerned about community reaction.

“Are we not taking the risk of alarming the public more than we really need to, especially when we don’t know?” he said. “I don’t know that we can give anybody a good answer. Nobody knows.”

Board member Joe Sechrist disagreed, noting that a large number of staff members opted out of being paid in installments over the summer.

“Seventy-five percent of the teachers think it’s going to happen or they wouldn’t have taken a lump sum,” Sechrist said. “Maybe the public needs to know a little bit more. I’m going to tell people to talk to your legislator. It’s necessary that we plan for it, but it’s embarrassing it has come to this.”

“I like that angle,” Koons responded.

Noble worked with finance director Jerry Hinerman and incoming superintendent Max Heinrichs to develop the plan he presented Monday.

“We are literally building this plane as we’re flying it,” he said. “Not only has it never been done in Kansas; it’s never been done in the country.”

The board sidestepped a problem with paying employees for work done in June by moving the monthly pay date to June 30.

If funding stops July 1, Noble said, he anticipated all work except for essential services likely would end, but it is unclear.

Most employees would be furloughed, although Heinrichs and Hinerman would likely stay on to deal with necessary administrative and financial matters, Noble said.

The district has about $700,000 of unencumbered cash to carry into the new budget year, but Noble said the district hasn’t been told those funds could be used “to stay afloat.”

He said he was hopeful the legislature would adopt a new funding plan satisfying the court’s concerns about constitutionality and equity.

“Nobody wants this,” he said. “This would be devastating.”

In other business:

  • A 2 percent salary increase for administrators other than superintendent was approved.
  • Teacher salaries received a $750 increase to the base, and staff were given prescribed movement on the salary scale, resulting in a 2.18 percent average pay increase.
  • Wages for classified staff were increased 40 cents an hour.
  • The district will provide money to cover health insurance equivalent to the cost of a $1,300-deductible single policy for all the above positions. Staff will pay extra for higher or additional family coverage.
  • Wage adjustments also were made for school nurse, preschool family advocate, and Parents As Teachers coordinator.
  • Supplemental contracts were approved.Dennis Boldt will replace Robert Haude as assistant high school football coach, as Haude will be taking over as cross-country head coach. Kalee Cross will be assistant middle school volleyball coach.

Last modified June 16, 2016

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