Lynne Hermansen
USD 231 School District will have a deficit of approximately $3,530, 679 for the 2022-2023 financial budget from the General Fund.
Interim Superintendent Dr. James Sutton presented the operating funds summary at a special work session Monday night.
“We have a $3.5 million problem to find a solution to,” he said.
Dr. Sutton said the calculations were estimated in order to use for decision making and hopefully they still have some good surprises.
“This will make next year’s process more smooth with fewer surprises,” he said.
Dr. Sutton said a lot of the financial shortfall was tied to the worst case scenario of declining enrollment for the district.
“If it increases it will be easier,” he said.
Dr. Sutton said free lunches cease next year but if enrollment increases then the LOB will increase.
“It is not a bird in the hand,” he said. “We can’t afford to be too optimistic.”
Dr. Sutton said revenues had decreased and payroll, insurance and transportation costs had all increased.
With the current short-term solutions he was presenting, he said, it still only solved $3.4 million of the deficit leaving about a $146,000 deficit.

Administrative
Dr. Sutton said administrative interns would be moving back to the classrooms for a savings of $314,015, not replacing the Director of Middle School Educational Services would save $164,599 and the short-term non-replacement for former Director of Operations Dr. Bruce Kracl would save the district $100,550. There will also be an administrative salary freeze based on 1.2 percent increase including the cabinet, district and building levels.
The responsibilities of the non-replaced positions would be farmed out to others, he said. They hoped to reestablish the Director of Operations position for the future.

Staff and service reductions
Dr. Sutton said there are 21 reductions in staff at the $50,000 salary level. 11 staff members from elementary schools, 3 staff members from middle schools and 7 staff members from the high school.
The reductions in staff due to attrition or transfers will save the district approximately $998,411, he said.
Greg Chapman, board member, said they had been hearing a lot about the SPED department needing help.
Dr. Jody Marshall, Human Resources director, said the $50,000 staff salary was a reasonable estimated placeholder for the budget and one of the three SPED programs in the district had been resolved.
Chapman said the department was already feeling overwhelmed and would $50,000 be better used elsewhere.
“If enrollment is better will it be easy to find quality candidates that late in the game,” he said.
Marshall said there were always plenty of available candidates for K-6 grades but it was more difficult for the Spanish, Special Ed teachers etc.
“If enrollment goes up we will have more funds to work with,” he said. “(With SPED) Attracting and retaining is the challenge and we have to figure out how to crack two nuts at the same time.”
Dr. Sutton said a maintenance position for $45,000 will also continue to go unfulfilled.
Ellis said he wanted to know what the maintenance position was for that had been posted for hire.
Amy Droegemeier, nutrition services director, said it was a skilled tradesman position that would have to be contracted out and the job role couldn’t be done internally.
“It has been open quite some time,” she said. “We just haven’t found the right person.”
Dr. Sutton said some pending actions would involve hiring freezes for five non-classroom support positions saving the district approximately $235,000. The five positions include custodian, secretary and a groundskeeper role going unfilled.
Tom Reddin, board Vice President, said he had concerns about the work in the school district going undone with the district also cutting overtime hours for a $25,000 savings.
Russ Ellis, board member, said he wanted to know how they had figured out the reduction of overtime hours for employees and worried about the stress it would put on everyone.
Dr. Marshall said with fewer people there would be delegation of responsibilities to meet coverage of tasks.
“We will be sitting down and looking at overtime and possibly adding more resources and technology for efficiency,” he said. “We will be analyzing safety opportunities and efficiencies and there won’t be overtime unless there is a crisis.”
Droegemeier said recently retired Director of Operations Dr. Bruce Kracl had mentioned once a program where night crews of staff worked every two to three nights to clean buildings.
“It is not an ideal situation but is doable in a pinch,” she said.
Katie Williams, board member, said would the reductions in staff cause an influx of kids into the classroom but still keep the district not above the threshold.
Dr. Marshall said they use a matrix like formula for all grade levels.
“The reductions are not exceeding but the formula might bump against the trigger point,” he said. “There will be a couple more kids in each class.”
Dr. Marshall said USD 231’s class sizes are smaller than other school districts in the county.
“Our class sizes remain appropriate,” he said.
Dr. Marshall said they start with 20 for each grade level and add numbers per grade level so 4th grade would have an additional 4 calculated for 24 kids in a classroom and so on.
The high school classes have a different formula, he said, and most classes are in the teens or lower 20s range.
Melissa McIntire, director of student support services, said the high school class cap is at 28 because some classes like P.E. have more students.
The school district goes through a process every year to adjust class sizes, Dr. Marshall said.
“It is an annual exercise and we have a few more tough decisions to make this year,” he said.
Dr. Sutton said they were also looking at switching the student mental health monitoring to a free option to save $22,000.
Williams said was the free option as effective as a paid program.
McIntire said the district currently uses a program called Gaggle Safety Management and three administrators rotate evenings and weekends to monitor students’ email and social media usage. The police department is then alerted if necessary.
Bark would be the free program that would replace Gaggle, she said, and would remain free if the district just relied on them to monitor students and then inform police instead of an automatic police alert.
“I don’t know how it would be fully sustainable,” McIntire said.
Williams said could parents also utilize Bark and what the membership cost would be.
McIntire said they could look into the paid feature that would allow parents to utilize the program and would research the cost to parents.
Reddin said the Gaggle System was the reason McIntire had been able to save a suicidal child recently.
McIntire said it wasn’t always the case though that she was available late in the evening and able to call police immediately.
Jeff Miller, board member, said did they monitor every student in the district.
McIntire said they monitored 5th through 12 grade students for mental health and inappropriate use of school accounts.
Reddin said he had hang ups about the district going to the Bark program and worried what would have happened to the student if McIntire hadn’t been monitoring.
McIntire said the district had used Bark prior to switching to Gaggle.
“I think it is super important but might be additional costs,” she said. “How can we compensate staff additional hours? Sustainability? It is a huge relief knowing Gaggle is watching but as a school do you take it on to monitor after hours. But you’re right—that phone call. Each of us had an impact.”
Dr. Sutton said one student life was far more important than a savings of $22,000.
“But requiring three individuals taking on the responsibility is huge,” he said. “There should be ways to encourage parents to follow their students.”
Dr. Sutton said a lot of school districts out a qualifier on monitoring students that it is certain hours and not 24/7.
“It should be parents responsibility while kids are in their care,” he said.
Greg Chapman, board member, said would there be a time reimbursement option.
“I don’t want to overburden staff but it is a very important provided service that is and has been working,” he said.
McIntire said they could relook at adding more expanded services but also worries about burnout.
Other services seeing reductions involve energy conservation efforts, reduced building budgets by 20 to 25 percent, district computer auto energy savings, raising instructional fees by $10, My School Bucks credit card fees paid by parents instead of the district and reducing the KASB membership.
Dr. Sutton said they were looking into restructuring their contract with First Student to a lease option because it doesn’t include fuel costs and could save the District approximately $808,000.
“It will be less stress on the General Fund,” he said. “It is more resilient during trying times in the district but it is money we can’t take to the bank.”
Dr. Sutton said they would have to run the word lease by the District’s attorney and auditor first.
“Would changing the word lease add more liability to the district—more risk,” Chapman said. “Just one word changes the whole plethora of responsibility.”
Dr. Sutton said other districts around are doing the same thing but he would check with their attorney and rely on them.

Revenue items
A revenue increasing pending item for $235,000 would be to increase the mill levy for Fund 42 Special Liability to 1.0 from .437.
“It might provide the district with more assurance so you don’t run into more legal problems like the past,” Dr. Sutton said.
Instructional fees are raised $10 per student for a total of $40,600.
Possible activity participation fees at the Middle School for $25 per student for a total of $22,875 and activity participation fees at the High School for $50 for a total of $59,500 had been removed for consideration.
Droegemeier said they don’t currently have fees for activity involvement and had been trying to reduce the burden on parents.

Potential program cuts
Dr. Sutton said he had visited with the new incoming Superintendent Dr. Huff about the Fire Science program and the possibility of discontinuing the program.
“It is an expensive program but I will advocate it is an important program,” he said. “Dr. Huff said once you stop a program like that it is hard to start up again.”
Dr. Sutton said he had met with Fire District 1 Fire chief Dennis Meyers at a Chamber Coffee event who talked about the importance of the program.
“It is a good connection with the community and needs to be safeguarded as much as possible,” he said.
Reddin said he wanted to know what Fire District 1 charges for the program.
Dr. Sutton said students are taken out to the station for hands on training.
Chapman said the whole program costs the same for one hired Fire District employee.
McIntire said the district does purchase the books for the program.
“Our students go over to the the Fire Station and it is more powerful,” she said.
McIntire said students receive CollegeNow credits with Johnson County Community College for Fire 1 and Intro to Safety classes and Fire District 1 recruits from the program.
Dr. Sutton said the District might also want to limit or reduce their USA Kansas membership. USA-Kansas is a professional organization for administrators. The district could save $17,600.
Chapman said he knows it offers X amount for the year in smaller districts but maybe their members could be required to write a newsletter, etc.
“It is something we could benefit from across the district,” he said.

Final
No decisions on budget items were made at the work session. The district will be sharing the budget details on their website later in the week.
Tuesday, May 17th School Board members will be holding a listening work session to hear community concerns on the Special Ed programs.
“The department has been through a lot the last few years,” Chapman said. “We need to show them they are being heard and we care by not reducing staff.”
Dr. Sutton said he appreciated everyone’s input but not to expect increased enrollment to solve all the district’s financial problems.
“It has really been a lot of listening to ideas on my part,” he said. “It is nice to be able to do this as bitter as this is without a great deal of community and staff consternation.”