August 11, 2014

Wichita Board of Education to discuss budget on Aug. 25

The Wichita school board voted to publish its proposed $684 million budget on Monday and set a public hearing for Aug. 25.

The Wichita school board voted to publish its proposed $684 million budget on Monday and set a public hearing for Aug. 25.

The budget, about $40 million more than last year’s, lowers the local property tax rate, projects an enrollment increase of 300 students and includes a 2 percent raise for teachers.

Earlier Monday, union officials announced that Wichita teachers overwhelmingly approved their tentative contract. Of the 2,642 votes returned to the United Teachers of Wichita office – cast by about two-thirds of the district’s 4,249 teachers – 96 percent voted to accept the contract.

District and union officials announced terms of the tentative one-year contract last month. In addition to a 2 percent increase to the salary schedule, the proposed contract:

Moves teachers along the salary schedule based on years of experience and additional education, known as steps and tracks, and longevity

Eliminates a Jan. 2 inservice day – with no loss of pay – so that employees will work 189 days in the school year instead of 190

Establishes a review committee to further discuss teachers’ lesson plans

Retains a provision that could shield Wichita teachers from a new state law designed to do away with tenure and due process

Board members did not vote on the proposed contract Monday but are expected to do so at their next meeting Aug. 25, when they also are set to approve the district budget.

Jim Freeman, the district’s chief financial officer, pointed to significant increases in some budget categories, including special education and capital outlay.

The district’s total mill levy would decrease from 57.2 mills to 53.6 mills, a savings of about $41 a year on a house that is valued at $100,000.

Also on Monday, board members approved a $1.3 million contract with Construction Services Bryant for an addition and renovation project at Woodland Health & Wellness Magnet Elementary School, 1705 Salina.

Woodland, built in 1919, is one of the district’s oldest school buildings. It will get a new library as part of the 2008 bond issue, and the current library will be converted to classrooms.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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