The Yankton School District’s (YSD) school board passed the 2019-2020 budget Monday evening, but according to Superintendent Wayne Kindle, if the school district is to continue to add value to services and programming in the future, an opt out will be necessary.
The biggest piece of business by far at Monday’s school board meeting was approval of the $19,123,082 budget for the upcoming school year. The budget was originally presented at the board’s May meeting, but due to a district-wide cyber-attack, an official budget hearing was postponed a month from the June meeting until the board’s July meeting where no comments were received.
Since then, the board has had several work sessions to review the 52-page document, said YSD Business Manager Jason Bietz.
“It’s looking like we are going to have a fund balance heading into the new (school) year of about $5.1 million,” Bietz said. “Assuming we spend 100 percent of our budget and we collect 100 percent of our budget, that would set up as a shortfall this year for operating purposes of about $582,000.”
It should be noted, that, due to changes in laws regarding capital outlay funds, YSD transferred $900,000 in capital outlay fund to the general fund for the 2019-2020 budget.
During the presentation, board member Terry Crandall requested clarification on an 11.4 percent budget decrease in the 2011-2012 budget year.
“That would have been the era of the cuts,” Bietz said. “We were trying our first and second opt-out attempts. We reduced our budget and made a lot of very painful cuts and, consequently reduced our expenditures for two years. Then, we worked our way back, restoring cuts.”
Bietz pointed out a 7.6 percent increase in 2013-2014 due to the restoration of previous cuts and another increase in 2016-2017 when teacher salaries were raised.
Kindle added that the items restored in 2013-2014 were done so at the request of the community.
“We did a survey of our community that year and asked what the community wanted our school district to do, and they listed a number of things that they wanted the school district to do, such as bring back art to Yankton Middle School,” Kindle said. “We brought back a counseling position and librarians in the elementary schools.”
The request from the community had been made through a district-wide survey for the last five-year strategic plan, he said.
When asked whether an opt out is imminent, Kindle said that seeking one is part of the newest YSD strategic plan.
“We heard pretty loud and clear in the second survey of the community that people want us to move forward. They had ideas for us to move forward, which include staffing and programming to continue to move the district forward, not backwards,” Kindle said. “That’s going to require some funding and we are going to have a discussion with the public about that, as part of our strategic plan, and we will lay out numbers and the direction in which we are going to go.”
Per the strategic plan, the school district hopes to host meetings and discussions about an opt-out as early as this school year, though there is no opt-out timeline, he said.
“We are transferring $900,000 in capital outlay,” Kindle said. “In two previous failed opt-outs, the community said, ‘Use your reserves.’ We’re doing that. ‘Use capital outlay when and if you can, to the extent that you can.’ We’re doing that.”
The third thing the public wanted was for the school district to move forward, he said.
“I think that’s only fair to our kids,” Kindle said. “We could have sat on our hands for the last seven years, but we haven’t done that. We felt that preschool was important for all of our kids, we had parents who couldn’t afford it, we moved forward with that. We had an in-town bussing issue where kids could get transported to school. We have a lot of working parents in Yankton and we’ve provided in-town bussing for those kids.”
Kindle hopes to highlight these and other ways the district has taken a lead moving forward during the opt-out discussions.
Also Monday, School Resource Officer Preston Crissey gave an overview of the Tips for Parents program he plans to introduce this school year to help parents cope with social media issues arising with their children.
Yankton Police Chief John Harris told the school board about the You Can Too program being piloted at Webster Elementary and Stewart Elementary school this fall. The program aims to introduce children to police officers at a young age so they are more comfortable with them.
Currently, the police offer a DARE program to the school district’s fifth graders.
“I think that’s too late,” Harris said. “We need to start sooner.”
Also during Monday’s meeting:
• Yankton High School Principal Jennifer Johnke told the board about the open house last week for the incoming ninth grade. Attendance was higher than ever and most students have already gotten their schedules.
• Yankton Middle School Assistant Principal Heather Olson gave the board a preview of what is planned for the sixth- and seventh-grade orientations at the middle school this week.
• The board approved a new Professional Boundaries Policy.
• Derek Valnes gave a brief update on construction projects in the district. The student parking lot will be ready for the first day of high school, but crews working on the back lot found issues which are being addressed. Some of the bathrooms at the middle school will be ready for use in time for the orientations this week, but not all. The parking lot project at Crane Youngworth Field is going well.
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