Baldwin USD 348 superintendent wary of state, federal actions
Baldwin USD 348 Superintendent Paul Dorathy provided the board of education Monday with a 2013-2014 budget update that focused on three state and federal actions that could affect district finances.
The superintendent said much was still in flux and he would provide monthly updates to keep the board and community informed.
The first federal action of concern was the Affordable Health Care Act, Dorathy said. The district’s decision three years ago to extend health insurance to all employees reduced the consequences of the act’s mandate that employers offer health insurance to all employees, he said.
But, he noted that the East Central Kansas Cooperative in Education — Baldwin is a member, along with the Eudora and Wellsville school districts — would have to expand coverage to paraprofessionals.
The superintendent, however, said he wasn’t sure yet what expanded coverage would cost the district. Initial conversations with cooperative officials indicated USD 348’s share would be more than $200,000, Dorathy said. But USD 348 board member Chad Christie and Sandy Chapman, the district’s liaisons to the cooperative, said revised numbers placed the Baldwin district’s share at $100,000.
The second federal action with an effect on the district is the sequester, the automatic spending cuts that became effective this month when officials in Washington, D.C., did not reach agreement on long-term deficit reduction.
The district would lose $8,000 federal money for title 1 funds used to help with salaries to teachers for students who struggle with reading, Dorathy said.
Finally, Dorathy addressed the ongoing tax debate in the Kansas Legislature. It’s too early to know what would ultimately be passed, but he noted the Kansas Senate moved tax legislation last week that maintained the state’s 6.3 percent sales tax rate, which will drop to 5.7 percent in July unless the Legislature extends the half-cent increase passed in 2010. Gov. Sam Brownback supports maintaining the sales tax at 6.3 percent so the state can meet its responsibilities while moving forward with income tax cuts the governor favors.
But Dorathy said the debate was far from settled and many in the Legislature opposed extending the sale tax hike.
“If they get rid of the sales tax (increase), there is a potential we will see cuts in state aid,” he said. “There are a number in Topeka who say ‘schools need to be cut.’”
Board member Sandy Chapman flagged yet another concern: The possible decline in the district’s valuation. If that’s the case when the district gets final valuation numbers in late June, a mill would produce less than the $74,000 it yielded in this year’s budget, she said.
Dorathy said funds with fixed mill levies, such as the capital outlay fund that is capped at 8 mills, would produce less revenue if the overall property valuation declines. Mill levies in support of bond and interest payments would increase to cover the require payments, he said. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in valuation.
In other business, the board:
• Approved a three-year contract with Reflective Group to provide the software the district uses for core functions. The software was originally developed in-house by Casey Morford, who now is a partner in Reflective Group.
The agreement gives Reflective Group the intellectual rights to the software in exchange for providing the software and support for the 2013-2014 school year. The district will be charged $1.60 per student for use of the software and support in 2014-2015. That contract price would continue for 2015-2016 if the local company can afford to keep the software active by marketing it to other districts.
Dorathy recommended the board approve the contract because of the expense of shifting to a different system and the “tremendous level of support” the district received from the local company. The contract was approved 5-2 with board members Chapman and Ruth Barkley voting no.
• Rescheduled its April 15 meeting to April 22.