The Independence USD 446 School Board called for a special meeting, Monday at their regular meeting, to request an examination of the 2018- 2019 budget for the school district. Rusty Arnold USD 446 superintendent asked the board to consider meeting Monday, July 30 at 7 a.m. in the Independence High School Community Room to answer any questions the board has regarding the budget. 

"It is our intent to keep the mill levy where it is at but the board needs to understand we have some things occurring that are out of our control and I'm not sure what we are going to do about it in the future years. The state did not provide enough funding to do all the things we need to do," said Arnold. He gave some examples of how last year the district raised the bond on the interest by half a mill to the payment for the 2008 school building remodel project. "At this point, we are going to raise that again and the way we are going to do it is to move it out of the capitol outlay and into bond and interest so it does not decrease our mill levy. The board needs to understand it is costing us more to pay for the buildings and any upgrades we do," he added. 

Several years ago, the school district refinanced several bonds to lower the interest rates and in the process saved approximately $ 1 million of the life of the loans. Typically, the bond writers build in accelerated payment plans as they predict sales tax revenue and the assessed valuation will continue to grow over time. However, the assessed valuation in this area has decreased in the past two years and the sale tax dollars are $200,000 below where they were in 2013 causing the school district to increase the mill levy in bond and interest to meet increasing bond payments. "We will need another half a mill levy increase to make the payment for this school year," said Arnold. 

Arnold estimated by 2024, the bond payment will be at $500,000. Arnold explained, "What's happening is in 2018- 2019 the school district will pay $3,291,525. In 2024, the bond payment will be $3,866,975. The problem is the city sales tax collection are below where they were in 2013 ($1.4 million). Today, the receipts are approximately $1.2 million. A loss of approximately $200,000." He added, the assessed valuation has been negative for the past two years which equates to the mill levy generating less each year. 

"These are some issues the board, nor  can I, control the tax receipts but the board needs to be aware of our situation and our bills continue to rise. I'm in hopes both sales tax collected and assessed values turn around because $500,000 is a significant amount of money," Arnold stated. The request was approved.

Arnold talked about the Kansas student assessments and what it means for USD 446. The Kansas policy institute looked at the data and put out a rating of schools. He cautioned when viewing the data to look at individual schools and not at the districts. "You have to look at individual schools if you want to compare us to other area schools," he stated. 

He moved into discussion on things the school district is now implementing to get the scores up, such as updating textbooks, continuing to follow the Build Your Own Curriculum (BYOC), use of the STAR reading and math screener to observe the students growth throughout the year, blended learning and training implementation with the LEXIA 4 and 5 reading program and the Frickle math program will offer the same diagnostic program as the reading program.  

"One thing that all research shows is if a student isn't reading at grade level by the third grade they are behind from now on. That is why reading has to be a top priority in our district," said Arnold. 

Other projects being implemented is the building improvement plans have been updated, growing the IHS math labs, introducing a college algebra program, English essentials and continuing the AVID program which is a support system for students the need help in school. 

An announcement by Kellie Puderbaugh, director of Learning Services was made regarding the annual Indy Goes Back-To-School event. "It's going to be different this year. We are calling it Indy Goes Back To School Pool Party. The event will be moved to the pool area," she said.

The information booth will be located along the cemetery wall. The Bulldog bags will be located outside the pool area, the band and orchestra will perform in the parking lot area, the passport booths will get people into the pool which will open at 5:15 p.m. and the pool will open at 5:30 p.m.

The Indy Goes Back To School Pool Party will be Aug. 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with free admission.