The financial situation of USD 382 is excellent, Superintendent Suzan Patton reported to the Board of Education Monday, even as she reviewed utility bills for January that topped $32,000.
The cold weather has definitely been a factor in higher than normal bills, she said, looking forward to March.
The district's financial condition is partly due to increased enrollment, and partly to keeping expenditures relatively frugal, she said.
Later in the meeting, she reported plans to hire an additional first grade teacher for next year, as this year's kindergarten classes have gained students throughout the year. Southwest Elementary Principal Jason May is looking at the physical configuration of the school to accommodate an additional classroom.
The Kansas Legislature is considering several issues that could impact education, including reimbursing schools for full-day kindergarten. Pratt kindergartners have attended all day for several years, but the school has received state aid as if half the number were in school.
If a bill passes, funding would increase on a graduated level, at 0.6 FTE (full time equivalent) next year and 0.7 the following, she said.
Additional state funding would have helped pay for para-educators added to support the four kindergarten teachers this year.
Many school districts require parents to pay a portion of the expense of all-day kindergarten, Patton said.
"We're lucky we're a district not charging," she said. "We're fortunate we'll always be a district that makes that a priority."
She said that a tax abatement offer made to the ethanol plant would have an impact on the district's tax revenue, but it was not yet known what that would be. She encouraged board members to take a long view to the payroll the plant would provide, increased payments to local vendors and the possibility of adding more students to the district, and promised to follow up on the matter.
In an action item, the board gave tentative approval to a 2014-15 calendar that calls for school starting Aug. 28, Christmas vacation Dec. 22-Jan. 2, spring break March 16-20 and the last day of school May 21. Final approval of the calendar is subject to negotiation with the teachers' organization, PNEA.