USD No. 113 Board meets, receives valuation study

Governing Body

Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education

Amber Deters

The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education met at 6 p.m. Monday, April 8, at Axtell Public School. Board members present were Ed Reznicek, Kathy Lippert, Kent Saylor, Jim Scoby, Leslie Scoby, Ann Shaughnessy and Jeff DeMint. A crowd of more than 40 district patrons was present.

The board adopted the agenda as amended.

The board approved the consent agenda, including the following: minutes from the March 11 meeting; April bills of 477,201.33; March payroll of $692,393.56; personal day/dock day requests for Marcia Bauerle, Nathan Bauman, Julie Kuckelman, Kaleb Moeller, Jessica Ploeger, Jennifer Streett, Shannon Garrett, Beverly Niehues, Heather Schremmer, Tina Hughes, Holly Meyer, Katie Heiman and Briana Uphaus; the hiring of summer help; Sabetha High School seniors to help with Sabetha Citywide Clean-Up on April 24; Reznicek and L. Scoby to serve on the fiscal year 2019 Sick Bank Committee; selling obsolete and/or damaged district-owned band instruments; a contract with Jennette Woltje as instructional support staff at Wetmore Academic Center; and a number of resignations.

Resignations included the following: Anissa Bloom as Wetmore Elementary School pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teacher, athletic director, cheerleading coach, junior class sponsor, concessions sponsor and PDC; Katie Heiman as MTSS Intervention Coach; Jesse Hutfles as Wetmore science teacher grades seven through 12, shop teacher and Wetmore High School assistant football coach; Nancy Schumann as Wetmore instructional support staff; Jennette Woltje as Wetmore Western Center driver; Marcia Bauerle as district leadership team and Sabetha Elementary School building leadership chair; Briana Evans as Sabetha High School building leadership team chair and building test coordinator; Linda Stone as SES library clerk and secretary; Jason Claycamp as WHS girls’ basketball coach, Wendy Roever as Axtell Public School first grade teacher; and Alex McAfee as Sabetha High School girls’ basketball coach.

Board members received written reports and positive photos from building administrators David Glynn, Matt Garber, Sara Toedman, Rick Schnacker and Jayson Tynon, and Director of Student Learning Jennifer Gatz. Board members also received a video report from Gatz, who discussed the KESA process and where the district currently is at in the process.

DeMint provided an update from the USD 113 Foundation. He said the Foundation surpassed $2 million this month.

Lippert provided a legislative update, noting that House Substitute for Senate Bill 16 had passed through the legislature and had been signed by Governor Laura Kelly. Whether this school finance bill will be deemed adequate is now up to the Kansas Supreme Court, she said.

Superintendent Report

Board members also received a video report from Superintendent Todd Evans, covering numerous items, as well as the remainder of his report in person at the meeting.

Expense Comparison: Year-to-Date expense comparison was presented, comparing expenditures from July 1, 2018, through April 8, 2019, to expenditures during the same timeframe during the previous fiscal year. To date, the district has spent $68,103.30 — with transfers already taken out — more from the general, supplemental general, 4-year-old at risk, K-12 at risk, food service, professional development and vocational funds. During the same timeframe, the district has spent $144,454.28 more from the capital outlay fund, and $25,896.83 less from the special education fund. Evans said these figures are right on track with where he expected them to be at this point.

Finance Committee: Evans said he suggests that the finance committee meet, because the legislative approval of House Substitute for SB 16 would mean an increase to what the district receives for Base State Aid Per Pupil. Evans said he would like the committee to meet to bring recommendations for the adjustments to the May meeting.

Safe 75: At the last meeting, Wetmore High School student Ally Davis presented to the board on the Safe 75 Coalition. At that time, the board voted to send a letter of support. Evans said the letter was sent.

Maintenance Issues: The SMS Boiler has been having issues with not working and leaking water. Evans said he expects it to need to be replaced this summer, which is estimated to cost more than $20,000. The Axtell Compressor went out on a refrigerator in the kitchen, which was replaced. The SES Roof is in need of repairs, as there have been multiple leaks over the winter months. AHRS has been consulted to offer a second opinion on roof replacement and if so will provide assistance on specifications. Also, there have been three leaks in the Wetmore roof, which the district has submitted warranty paperwork on to have repaired.

Enrollment Projections: Projected enrollment for 2019-20 is a headcount of 1,115. For the 2018-19 school year, total headcount enrollment was 1,127. Evans said the district has been anticipating an overall enrollment decline.

Sick Bank: The Sick Bank the district has for the teachers has been used recently, Superintendent Evans said. He said this is a positive benefit for employees.

Election: As of Friday, March 29, there were no filings for the open School Board positions.

E-Rate: With money from E-Rate, the district is upgrading some of the cables, as well as the cache server. At full cost, these upgrades would cost $62,799.97, but with the E-Rate money the total cost to the district is $18,839.99. The district usually tries to spend this money on infrastructure, Evans said.

Personnel Update: Evans said that teachers are becoming increasingly difficult to hire. There are numerous open positions in the district, including some that will be hard to fill.

Capital Outlay Update: Each June, the board members consider requests from each building for capital outlay. After last year’s process, the district decided to do things differently this year, and money was allocated to each building to use when it is needed. Evans said board members will be presented with an update of how funds have been used throughout the year in June.

Negotiations Timeline: Negotiations will begin in late May, Evans said.

Sabetha Headstart: NEK-CAP has submitted a grant to bring Headstart back to Sabetha. There are currently six students being served by being transported to Hiawatha. Superintendent Evans said he is hopeful Headstart will be able to re-open in Sabetha. There has been a request for the district to consider allowing the east side of the district office to be used for Headstart. This is not ideal and would require some work to the area, Evans said. He said he is requesting a Facilities Committee to consider this request and whether it is financially beneficial to the district.

Garber Communications: Superintendent Evans said that he has been in communication with Representative Randy Garber, and he is very thankful for the good communication from Garber. While they do not always agree, Evans said, Garber is always responsive. This is not the case with all of the legislators who represent the district, Evans said.

USD 488 Bond Resolution: The district is planning to pay off the USD No. 488 bond in September 2020. Evans said he plans to present a bond resolution in June that the board will need to approve, in order to move toward paying off the bond.

Axtell Project

Board Members took a tour of the construction progress at Axtell. The were advised of potential change orders.

The board approved the following change orders, totaling $12,574.54: one, patch existing concrete floor at ADL/Media Center; two, drywall existing walls at ADL/Media Center; three, replace walk off carpet tile; six, new door and hardware for opening B/2, eight, additional conduit and drops for information technology, access control at west entry, new outlet and wire cover in ADL/Media Room and bell system relocation; and nine, door, frame and hardware changes. Evans said change order four — replacing the VCT and rubber base through the commons and corridor — would be completed and paid out of Axtell’s building capital outlay fund. Change order number seven was not improved, as they are waiting on additional information.

Axtell Presentations

Representatives presented to the board regarding the Axtell Booster Club, Axtell Economic Development Committee and Axtell Pride Committee. The Booster Club has donated more than $150,000 to the school in the past five years. The Axtell Economic Development Committee has contributed approximately $150,000 to community projects in the past five years. The Axtell Pride Committee has given back to the community in excess of $200,000 in the past five years. All representatives discussed the importance of the school in the community. Sarah Shaughnessy, who spoke on behalf of the Axtell Economic Development Committee, said this group is working specifically to draw new families to Axtell by reaching out specifically to businesses who are building their workforce in the area.

Axtell patron Gary Ronnebaum presented to the board, in response to what he read in the Marysville Advocate about Kathy Lippert’s presentation and the board’s discussion at the board’s February meeting regarding future viability of each campus in the district. Ronnebaum said he has served on two school boards — St. Michael’s Catholic School, and USD No. 488 school boards. He has gone through multiple times in which damage has been caused by rumors of schools closing.

“Who will throw their support behind a district that appears to be coming apart at the seams?” Ronnebaum asked.

Ronnebaum said that documentation he had received showed that the Axtell and Wetmore areas make up nearly 40 percent of the district’s total valuation.

“When we combined districts nine years ago, both districts were in trouble,” Ronnebaum said. “We joined forces to meet those challenges, and I think it would be very risky to face those challenges alone.”

Ronnebaum told board members that time and money being spent on continuous studies is a waste.

“We are one district. The image we need to portray to the public is strong and unified,” he said.

Valuation Study

Superintendent Evans presented information provided by Kickhaefer and Buessing regarding district assessed valuation, split by campus subsections.

The entire district’s area valuation is $730,295 — coming through the counties of Nemaha, Brown, Marshall and Jackson. Campus subsections’ valuations are as follows: Sabetha campus, $433,028 or 60.66 percent; Axtell campus, $193,778 or 26.5 percent; and Wetmore campus, $93,489 or 12.8 percent.

Campus subsections were divided by areas of where students would go to school, along township lines.

Viability Perspectives

Reznicek explained that this is an opportunity for each board member to express where he or she stands regarding this subject.

DeMint said his perspective is he does not want to bet against Axtell. He also wants to point out that the previous meeting’s discussion was made by only one board member. He also felt it was unfair to talk about making radical changes to the district while in the same meeting approving projects and items for all of the campuses.

“Our board was at one time condemned for doing the very same thing in the span of nine months,” DeMint said.

Shaughnessy said it is important to continue working together, and to do this she believes some things need to be adjusted — including the viability formula. She said the Axtell community does not get credit for the revenue it generates.

“The small schools have a dark cloud over our heads all the time. We are held hostage by the district,” Shaughnessy said. “Pending fear leads to a decline in morale.”

When the districts consolidated, it was at the forefront and was “doing what was best for all students,” Shaughnessy said.

L. Scoby said that, as a former teacher, she wants to make sure that the students at the smaller schools have as many opportunities for a well rounded education as they do at the larger school.

“I didn’t feel like we talked about closing a school,” L. Scoby said. “I feel like that was blown up.”

L. Scoby said she does support the finance committee, and she thinks it is important to keep everybody in line.

“It is important to have a line, but we have to balance what happens with student opportunities,” L. Scoby said.

J. Scoby said the district has to look at what is best for the entire district from not only the student size but also from the taxpaying public. Looking at the FTE of Axtell from a longterm standpoint, he said, it is going down – though not much. J. Scoby said what was written in the Marysville paper was a little inaccurate. What was accurate was that, he said, is that according to the viability formula each campus should get to a point where it holds its own. He said he believes the viability formula is accurate.

Lippert said what is or is not printed in a newspaper is out of the board’s control. At the February meeting, Lippert said, a number of expenditures were approved for students and schools across the district. Also, she said, the board does not only talk about viability “all the time.”

“We meet every month and have not talked about it for quite a long time,” Lippert said. “But it can not be persistently ignored. If people want to throw darts at me, I am a perfect dartboard. But fiscal viability is important.”

Reznicek said he believes the district has been operating according to the [viability] standards as laid out, and has followed the intent of the process. I suspect we analyze our budgets more than any other district in the area, he said. However, the viability standards have kept the subject of viability out of the discussion at each meeting, and it has kept the board from taking impetuous action in terms of closing, he said. It is a complex process, he said, and one change at one campus affects the ratios at all of the campuses.

“By having three campuses, the opportunities for students are expanded as compared to what they would be if all campuses were combined,” Reznicek said. “Having three campuses also keeps students close to their school and enhances the ability for students to participate.”

Saylor said that he understands the valuation issue, and there might be a few tweaks he can make. However, part of the confusion is because of the state equalization — the equity — it is not as simple as a spreadsheet looks. Each line item has a state calculation that is very complicated, he said.

“I do personally see the district as a whole, and I do not like to see negative news. That is the worst thing for this district, and we need to shut that down,” Saylor said. “You want to sell what you have.”

SHS Field Irrigation Project

The board was presented with a request to install an underground irrigation system at the SHS practice football field. A quote for the project was presented from Shroeder Lawn and Landscape out of Sabetha, for a total of $10,000.

The request was approved.

Also at the meeting:

The board established a Facility Advisory Committee. Board members Saylor and J. Scoby were appointed to the committee.

The board approved a bid of $78,569 from Kansas Truck Equipment for a bus.

The board entered into executive session to discuss employee compensation and benefits. Following executive session, no binding action was taken.

Amber Deters121 Posts

Amber Deters is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2005. She specializes in school board, election and legislative reporting, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Amber is a 2005 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in journalism and mass communications, print journalism sequence. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and three children.

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