With no patrons present to question the proposed 2013-14 budget, the USD 382 Board of Education made short work of a required hearing Monday night. A budget of $13.7 million was approved, with $4.6 million to be raised by county property tax, at the rate of 51.862 mils.

The mil levy dropped slightly from 2012-13, because of an increase in property valuation.

"In a nutshell, I'm pleased with the budget; we are able to budget for the things we need," Superintendent Suzan Patton said.

An increase in enrollment last year allowed more funds to be transferred for the next year; however, Patton said she was cautious in developing the budget, not knowing if the student increase would repeat.

The district has a total debt of $15 million, but with refinancing, that will decrease over time, Patton said. In August, the district made payments of $782,868.83 for the Pratt High School bond and for the Southwest Elementary addition.

Board members Chris Drake and Mark Fincham were applauded for recent recognitions. Drake was elected chair of the South Central Kansas Special Education Cooperative Board of Directors and Fincham is the Region 8 vice president the board of directors for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Liberty Middle School Principal Tony Helfrich discussed the one-to-one iPad initiative for students, with all seventh and eighth graders being issued electronic tablets. Fifth and sixth grade classes will have access to iPad carts.

A great teacher, if given a chalkboard and chalk, will do a pretty good job, he said, but technology is another tool to engage students.

Technology director Molly Swank said that parent meetings will be held in September, before the tablets are issued to students.

She also said a new filtering system will be global, in that whatever apps the school filters out will also be filtered at home.

Some parents are concerned that the device will just be "music, pictures and games for kids," she said, and by eliminating those features, they can focus on the iPad as an educational tool.

Teachers Linda Stelzer and Mike Forshee piloted the iPads in their classrooms last year and will be available as resources for other teachers.

In addition to technology, LMS will stress cooperative learning and development of listening, speaking and communication skills, Helfrich said.