USD 489: Rehiring teachers ‘No. 1 priority’ if LOB increase is approved

USD 489 Superintendent Dean Katt speaks at HHS, the first stop in the LOB Talking Tour Wednesday.

USD 489 Superintendent Dean Katt speaks Wednesday at HHS, the first stop in the LOB Talking Tour. Ballots for the LOB issue will be mailed to USD 489 voters on June 11, and must be returned by June 27.

Hays Post

With the district facing more than a million-dollar budget deficit for the 2014-15 school year, Hays USD 489 Superintendent Dean Katt presided over the first of seven community “Talking Tours” Wednesday to discuss the upcoming local option budget election, emphasizing if the LOB increase is passed, the “No. 1 priority is to reduce class size” by rehiring some of the 16 teachers who recently received notice their jobs would be cut.

Speaking  to 13 people at the Hays High School site council, Katt said the average USD 489 class size ranges between 21 to 23 students, but large classes are a problem within third, fourth and fifth grades — leaving one teacher to handle as many as 29 students in some cases.

“And we know that is high, and we would like to reduce that — and that is the priority of the board,” Katt said. “The board has said if we do pass the LOB to 31 percent, it would be used to bring back some of those lower-grade level teachers and then work our way up from there.”

According to Katt, if the LOB were passed, the proposed fee increases and transportation cuts up for discussion at Monday’s school board meeting might not be necessary, as well.

Katt displayed a chart to the crowd and explained, should voters approve the one percent LOB increase in June, the mill levy would increase .0002 mills.

“That would cost, on a $100,000 home, $2.3o a year or .19 cents a month and generate $198,000 which would go into the district’s general fund,” he said.

Responding to a question from the audience, Katt did acknowledge once the LOB is raised to 31 percent the board does have the option to raise the LOB another 1 percent or 2 percent without a public referendum.

“The LOB could go to 32 or 33 percent. … It is an option, but it would have to happen after the election,” Katt said, pointing out if the school board voted to raise the LOB, the increase would only be in effect for one year and it would then revert to 31 percent.

“At that point, if (the board) wanted to (raise the LOB permanently), it would have to go to vote,” said Katt.

Katt said a number of factors have led to the district’s budget shortfall including state funding cuts beginning in 2009 in which the district’s general operating funds declined from $24.6 million in 2008-09 to $23.3 million in 2013-2014. He also said enrollment figures were predicted incorrectly and figures for wage increases for teachers were budgeted incorrectly.

Katt said mail-in ballots will be sent to every registered voter in the USD 489 district June 11, and ballots must be returned to the Ellis County District Clerk by noon June 27.

Until then, Katt said he plans “to visit civic organizations and anyone I can to get the word out.”

For a full Talking Tour schedule and more information on the LOB election visit the USD 489 website.

Related story: USD 489 offers information with LOB issue looming.

Related story: Documents show costs for district programs, potential cuts.

Related story: USD 489 discussed new and increased fees at latest meeting.

  • Rusty

    Sounds to me Katt is our selling that LOB but I won’t buy it. I will be voting NO.

    • Reality

      I’ll be voting ‘yes.’ We cancel each other out.

    • guest1

      I don’t like the idea of it, but the reality is our children’s education will suffer without it. So, I will be voting yes. They need to get some of those teachers rehired.

      • Rusty

        I see what you are saying. But I paid enough taxes to 489 for not needing a school.

        • Reality

          Rusty, likewise, I don’t like a large chunk if my tithe going to TMP to cover their tuition when my kids are in 489, but I do it anyway. Good schools, be they Catholic or public, require adequate funding. I don’t like paying a penny more than needed in taxes, but a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases is needed here. Katt is asking for both, not just more money. We as a community need to articulate our priorities for cuts to the board. That’s why I’m voting yes.

          • Wondering

            Reality – Obviously you’re Catholic, so I would like to ask you a question. Know that I’m neither condemning nor agreeing with your decision to send your child(ren) to 489, to each their own. As you said “a large chunk of your tithe going to TMP to cover their tuition”, why wouldn’t you send your child(ren) there? I have no dog in the race, I’m just curious why an apparent practicing Catholic wouldn’t send their child(ren) to a Catholic school that’s in the same town (as long as the school is an upstanding one which, on the outside at least, TMP seems to be)? I’m not trying to incite an argument, I’m only curious. If you choose not to respond, I respect that too.

          • Reality

            Wondering, TMP is a fine school. We had the kids visit both and they made their choice; their reasons varied from uniforms to more sports and language options. Our parish has dozens of HHS families.

  • Lefty54

    Quote from the article – “He also said enrollment figures were predicted incorrectly and figures for wage increases for teachers were budgeted incorrectly.”
    OK, who is making these errors? Two key components of budget preparation were done incorrectly. Who is responsible for these errors? Are they still employed? Have they gotten a pay raise? Why are they so bad at their jobs?

    • Context

      The previous leadership team of Mr. Cain and Dr. Roth. They provided the BOE with all the budget numbers and projections to make decisions on. Both abruptly retired.

      • jumper

        and the BOE have the responsibility and authority to question anything that is put in front of them. the buck stops with them. Who voted to put Roth in place of Fred? As I recall Schwartz loved the guy. Then guess what? They hate the guy and into executive session they go and out goes Roth. Now they think they got the cat in Katt who was let go and his other place. Blame the BOE folks.

        • Context

          I agree, but that wasn’t the context of the question. The board members do not individually calculate situational dollar outcomes as it is relates to the budget. Most do not have that kind of expertise. As a boardmember, you do rely on the administration and finance experts to provide you with the budgetary effects of each possible decision, positive and negative. Ultimately the BOE has the final say on what actions get taken but if it is based on bad data, it reflects bad on all. I witnessed a few of Mr. Roth & Mr. Cain’s presentations on their projections and budgetary effects based on expected enrollments and other variables. They were supplying this data to the board for the purpose of making district and budget decisions. I’m not saying any of them are clear of some fault, its just not as simple as you imply.

  • bob

    It’s a priority but no guarantee. Tell you what Mr. Katt. Why don’t you first trim some fat from those administrative positions. Let go of some of those folks and tell the rest to take a pay cut. Cut down the sports programs including 7th grade sports. If you do that you’ll make up this $200,000 you are asking from us taxpayers. And when you do your job and trim all the unnecessary fat and then, and only then, if you need assistance with funds then come back to us. For now I’m voting NO!

  • Money allocation

    Will this money ONLY be used for teachers, classroom supplies, etc or will it go to football? Just saying you should be 100% clear it goes to education or you’ll lose a lot of potential votes, mine included. I know if I vote ‘yes’ and find out later any funds went to coaches, gas for games, motel rooms, etc I’ll be very disappointed. This would include the other LOB funds should they also take the optional increase later. I’m ok with paying the extra $2.30 a year on my house taxes if I know it goes directly to keeping our teachers and our kids learning math, science, English, etc.

  • Fed UP

    Oh, so they gave teachers a raise that they shouldn’t have because it was an error and then turn around and can them and now he wants us to pass LOB to reinstate some of them? Flipping ridiculous, they have no other positive to convince people to vote yes, so in my opinion they are trying to make us feel sorry for all these teachers that lost their jobs. I’m sorry, I do feel bad for them but if the district would have budgeted properly in the first place they wouldn’t be in this situation. Yes, Topeka has issues and things are tight, but that is not a new situation. This has been going on for a few years now. Maybe we should have been banking some money in our contingency fund for a cushion instead of spending money on unneeded items/positions. My vote is NO!!!

    • Budget

      Giving the teachers a ‘raise’ wasn’t an error. You should do research before posting. For one, teachers did NOT get any increased amounts for several years due to a wage freeze. Even though they were supposed to get cost of living increases based on years of service and increases based on say obtaining a masters degree, that was all put on the back burner. They only last year really pushed to at least get a cost of living increase for them and only about 1/2 the amount requested was even given. If you want to know why we are short, a lot has to do with Brownback not caring and forcing the schools to get by on less and less each year. Some issues were also due to past USD 489 people not doing their math like they should. If you need say 100,000 to operate your company properly, but only have 90,000 then you run into issues and things you do really need end up being cut-like our teachers. I’m just hoping the board will realize that they need to step up and make some cuts to the sports budget as we’re spending 1/2 a million there, but I don’t see anything being downsized at all. Maybe implement pay to play for one.

      • Fed UP

        I’m sorry I didn’t feel I needed to do research. Did you read the article above? He states: Figures for wage increases for teachers were budgeted incorrectly, so I consider incorrectly and error as the same thing. So if the teachers didn’t get a raise, why is he stating that there was a wage increase for teachers? I guess this just gives me another reason to vote NO, this is something else that makes me not trust what they are doing with the tax payer money. Yes, I agree with you on the sports, with all the HRC has to offer our district could cut way back. We don’t need to offer every darn sport known to man kind, just waiting for underwater basket weaving to be an option….lol.

        • Hays Citizen

          You must not be a very competitive person. The HRC would like nothing more than to turn off the scoreboards and take competitiveness out of sports. They think everyone should get a pat on the back for just showing up. This is what is turning kids and parents into a bunch of whiners. Kids need to learn to be competitive because life is competitive. They will compete their whole lives if they want to succeed. This is what competitive sports teaches kids from an early age. This is why sports will never go away so deal with it.

          • johnny

            that’s what they are afraid of with pay to play. johnny’s dad and mom thinks he’s the next john elway except the coach doesn’t think so. but johnny’s folks get irate because they pay for him to play so he better have some playing time and not a bench warmer. if everybody on the team has pay to play they all better play, correct? good luck coaches.

          • Fed UP

            You have me all wrong, I am very competitive. I never said do away with all sports, I just said cut back. I am well aware and a firm believer that our children should not get a pat on the back and everyone WIN and we all get participation awards instead of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. One thing is for sure and regardless of what you think of me, I tell my children that not everyone can WIN! I always say to them, if three people apply for a job when ya get older, only one gets the job not all three! :)

          • 2 cents

            Something we learned in a previous article to keep in mind:

            All Sports: $478,994
            just Art & Music: $887,000

            I was involved in sports, art, and music growing up. I gained many more valuable life skills playing sports than participating in art and music. The benefits gained having sports available for kids far outweigh the costs. I’m not saying we need to cut art and music completely but I wish the sports hating would ease up a little bit.

          • Do your part

            Well…for one….we have art and music in several grade schools, so you have to keep that in mind. Sports are only middle school and high school. Art and music are also classes and and part of the education system. Sports are EXTRAcurricular-I think that’s the big sticking point. If we had an extra $478,994.00 just laying around, it would be one thing. We are short and when you fire teachers and make class sizes close to 30, people DO scratch their heads and wonder why we are still dumping all this money into sports. Make them pay for their EXTRAcurricular activity. Or maybe cut some of the funding out and not penalize classes & teachers.

          • Fed UP

            Yep, I was in every sport that our district offered, but that was only volleyball, basketball and track. I was very thankful to be involved in sports and my children are too. I’m not saying cut sports all together. I’m saying we don’t have to have so many dang choices if times are so tough. As far as Art/Music. I am well aware of the article I have been keeping up with all of it. I think this is very troublesome too. See, this is why I am voting NO, there are many things that could still be cut before we should have to resort to LOB increase. My point exactly, they have not proved to me that they have done everything they possibly could to cut expense.

          • redhed

            The number for art and music is for ALL the schools. The number for sports is f TWO schools, just imagine the budget, if all the schools had a sports team.

          • Sports Manners

            Maybe you need to deal with it. My vote is to cut sports down and start saving some money! Also, I’ve been to games where the parents are crazy radicals calling players names and yelling at coaches and also watching players taking cheap shots or trying to injure players out. I’d much prefer a game where all players that take their time to attend practice and keep their grades up get a turn…… matter how good or bad they are. That, my friend, is what this world needs more of.

      • stone_cold_steve_austin

        Brownback has nothing to do with our local budgeting errors and over spending. Please stop blaming him for OUR mistakes.

        • tea partier

          AGREED! the buck stops with the BOE. these are OUR mistakes.

        • Reality

          …but everything to do with the $1.3 mil decline in state funding.

          • stone_cold_steve_austin

            All other districts are dealing with state funding cuts. But not all other districts have overspent and made budget errors. So no, it doesn’t have everything to do with decline in state funding.

      • Big Girl

        Cry me a river… teachers didn’t get a pay raise for several years. We have been in a recession. Large numbers in the United States were laid off, businesses closed, wage freezes occurred everywhere. These teachers have it pretty darn good in Hays, Kansas. My word is there anything they can be thankful for? All I hear about is the poor teachers and on and on… Life is pretty darn good in Hays America. Look at what is going on globally…death, starvation, war, homelessness,…life is good here in Hays!

        • Taxpayer

          Do you ever post anything positive? It’s too bad you have such a beef with teachers. You know…you can always go back and get your GED anytime, ‘Big Girl’.

          • Big Girl

            Tired of all the whining these alleged professionals do! Think of soldiers, police officers, fire fighters…they all work shifts, inclimate weather, little appreciation, not much pay. Teachers work part time, inside, easy degree and they act as if they are surgeons.

      • Truth

        Teachers haven’t been on wage freezes. There have only been a couple years out of the past decade in which raises were frozen/suspended. Actually, they received a 6% and 5% raise in back to back years not to long ago.

        • Truth

          Guess again. Do your research. If you have proof, then post it. Making things up for your own personal agenda is not right.

  • Hays Citizen

    So, the additional taxes I will pay will be about $6.00 per year based off those figures. I think I can live with that and I hope they raise it the additional 1 to 2 percent for 1 year. I will be voting YES and I support Mr. Katt and the entire board for the mess they are having to work through. A current school board member is the most “thankless” job in Hays right now. These people have decided to stick their necks out for the greater good and all you people want to do is complain about what is going on. If you don’t like it then show up at one of the board meetings or the other 6 community “talking tours” and voice your opposition. Better yet, why don’t you run for the board and see what happens.

  • chompers

    smoke and mirrors mr. katt. saying what you want us to hear to get the vote. then you’ll spend it on something stupid like the board did with the FAST project. our buildings are sound. we have an over inflated budget due to high salaries and positions that you can trim. get to work solving those problems first. i’m voting no.

  • billy-boy

    i’m taxed to death. if yours was the only tax mr. katt i wouldn’t have a problem. but look what hits us taxpayers. the city, the county, on and on. sales tax increase, property tax increase. it never ends. i can’t no more. like other posts have said. you still have a lot of waste that can be trimmed especially sports programs and administrative positions. i’m voting no on this one.

  • bo0-boo

    hey i seen Schwartz and Rankin in the paper last night handing out cupcakes to the teachers. how nice. have a cupcake. by the way, you’re fired!

  • Guest

    I like how they are using the emotions of the public in relation to teachers being cut to try to get people to vote “yes” for this. I firmly believe that teachers should be added back and that cuts should be made in other places, but it annoys me that this is a ploy to get this to pass. There is no guarantee that will really happen. If it does, how many teachers would they really add back?

  • Context

    To provide a little context on the errors made in the past, you all should recognize that the BOE acted on assumptions, projections, budgets, and advice provided by the previous leadership of Mr. Cain and Dr. Roth. While it might be fair to place some of the blame the BOE members, I believe they acted on what they felt were accurate projections and passed a budget believing they had the correct picture in front of them (we have since learned they did not). I have followed the districts finances for a long time and most may not be aware of this. Mr. Katt, regardless of your personal opinion of him, is largely trying to clean up the mess left behind by Cain and Roth. Taking him to task or personally attacking him for this mess is misguided at best. Like it or not, he is part of the solution. It is his job to present the BOE with options and they will make the final decisions. He is a huge asset to the district during this difficult time. I challenge all of you to talk with our BOE members, attend BOE meetings, and use your voice in a useful manner (pro or con) rather than badger people back and forth on this post using your own assumptions and half facts.

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  • Confused

    I am confused. In an April 14 Hays Daily News article, it says a 1% LOB increase would cost the owners of a $100,000 home $37.95 annually. We all know they will increase that to the 3% without our vote which will roughly be $114 a year on a $100,000 home. However, the article above says it will only increase our costs $2.30 per year on a $100,000 home. Am I missing something here or is it semantics?

  • Guest

    Hays is not the only district suffering from state funding cuts that have declined year after year. The new state educational bill just passed helps school districts with a high population of low income families and does very little for the rest. Unfortunately, Hays does not fall into the poor category. This is happening to many many districts around the state. The new state educational bill that was passed purposely expects districts who suffer from cuts to turn to LOB increases to make up for the lost funds.

  • Big Girl