Wichita school board to scrutinize proposed budget

08/11/2012 6:50 PM

08/11/2012 6:50 PM

Wichita school leaders on Monday will get their first detailed look at a proposed budget that keeps the local property tax rate flat and includes the first raise for employees in four years.

The $628 million budget for 2012-13 — about $22 million more than the previous year’s — includes an increase in teaching positions and an average 3.9 percent increase in employee salaries and benefits.

The budget presumes no enrollment changes for Wichita, the state’s largest school district, though Superintendent John Allison has said enrollment could increase.

It calls for adding 48 teachers — 25 special education, 15 bilingual and eight regular classroom teachers — as well as 23 teacher aides “to assist with increasing high-need students and to staff … five new schools.”

The district expects a 17 percent jump in utility costs and a 9 percent increase in transportation costs because of higher energy rates, a more expensive bus contract and new or expanded school buildings.

Five new schools are set to open this fall — one high school, one K-8 and three elementaries. As part of the 2008 bond issue, the district has added about 800,000 square feet to its buildings, the budget says.

School board members will vote Monday to publish the budget and schedule a public hearing and final vote for Aug. 27.

They also are expected to approve a tentative teachers contract that includes a 1 percent raise and other increases based on teachers’ years of experience or additional education, known as steps and tracks.

Wichita teachers began voting on the contract when they reported to work last week. Voting will continue until 4 p.m. Monday, said Randy Mousley, president of United Teachers of Wichita.

In addition to discussing the budget and teachers contract, school board members are expected to:

•  Approve the sale of the former Booth Elementary School, 5920 E. Mount Vernon. The school, which closed in 2003, was auctioned last month. Hope International Fellowship, a nondenominational Christian church, submitted the winning bid, offering $83,000 for the school.
•  Learn more about how the state’s recently accepted waiver from some provisions of No Child Left Behind could affect Wichita schools.

Last year, 12 Wichita schools had to offer tutoring or transfers because they didn’t meet improvement targets mandated by the federal law. So far Allison, the superintendent, has said he doesn’t know whether that will change.

Another key component of the waiver requires that districts evaluate teachers based at least in part on student achievement. A committee formed as part of the tentative teacher contract will study how to develop and implement new teacher evaluations.

•  Revisit the list of bond projects on “pause and study.”

More than a year ago, district officials put many projects in the district’s $370 million bond issue on hold while they dealt with budget cuts and re-evaluated spending priorities. Since then, some school buildings slated for bond work — Bryant, Emerson, Lincoln and Mueller — have closed.

During a recent meeting, bond managers said they will recommend removing the closed schools from the bond project list, which will save about $7 million in bond funds.

Officials may propose expanding Bostic Traditional Magnet Elementary, one of the district’s most popular magnet programs, and building a multipurpose room and storm shelter at the former Northeast Magnet High School, 1847 N. Chautauqua, which now houses Metro-Boulevard Alternative High School.

•  Hear an overview of the school board redistricting process. Every 10 years, elected bodies like school boards and the Kansas Legislature must redraw district lines to reflect population shifts in the Census and ensure equal representation.

Data shows that three of the six board districts — Districts 1, 2 and 6 (primarily north, northeast and east Wichita) — have populations above the target per-district number; the remaining three (primarily south and west Wichita) are below the target. Board members on Monday will discuss how to get started redrawing the lines.

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