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District holds tax rate level; fills vacancies
Donations accepted for scoreboard
A teacher checks out the Great Bend Tribune table at the Business Showcase, part of the Back to School Bash for USD 428 employees on Monday. Free tote bags read, "I'm a teacher; what's your superpower?" - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

The Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education on Monday approved a budget that holds the mill levy to virtually the same rate as the past two years, Assistant Superintendent Khris Thexton said. The estimated tax rate for the general fund, supplemental fund, capital outlay and debt service will be 45.834 mills, compared to 45.866 mills in 2015-2016 and 45.280 mills in 2014-2015.
The proposed budget was published in the Great Bend Tribune on Aug. 4, along with a notice that there would be a public budget hearing on Aug. 15. Thexton said he had received no questions about the budget, and no one from the public spoke at the hearing.
The budget hearing/approval was followed by the regular meeting, where one licensed teacher appointment was filled, for Jami Merlau, speech language pathologist for Barton County Special services.
Administrators commented on the fact that Great Bend will start school this week with all but one teaching position filled.
“This is honestly an amazing accomplishment,” Assistant Superintendent John Popp said, adding all the credit goes to the building principals for their hard work to find and hire high quality applicants. The district even filled positions caused by late resignations where the teachers were told they would not be released from their contracts unless a suitable replacement was found.
The one vacancy is a position for a teacher of English as a Second Language. The person hired to fill that slot backed out at the last minute. Popp said the ESL position has been covered by re-assigning another teacher, but that has required hiring a long-term substitute.

The board approved some capital improvements, although no dollar amounts were given at the meeting. There will be more details as the projects are done, Thexton said. Projects approved: LED lighting for the GBHS gymnasium and auditorium, aluminum bleachers to replace wooden ones at GBHS, and a modern jungle gym at Eisenhower Elementary School, replacing one that did not meet today’s standards when a “safety audit” of playgrounds was done earlier this year.
The board approved the administration’s request to release bids for two six-passenger vehicles to update the fleet and for a replacement sound system in the GBHS Auditorium.
The board approved the following grants and contributions:
• Tina Steinert, special education teacher, has been awarded a grant for a Tynker Classroom for use by Great Bend Middle School gifted students. It is valued at $399 and includes enhanced creativity tools.
• Dr. Nels Linberg and his team at Production Animal Consultation donated $750 to GBHS’s FFA chapter.
• Donations have been received for a new basketball scoreboard at the GBHS gym: $10,000 from High School Athletics; $7,500 each from Innovative Livestock Services Inc., Venture Corporation and Farmers Bank and Trust; $5,000 from Panther Booster Club; $1,000 from Golden Belt Foundation; and $750 each from Marmie Motors and Marmie Ford. The district is waiting to hear from a soft-drink company. The district took bids on the scoreboard and the donors will have advertising on it, Thexton said. Board member Kevin Mauler asked how long the advertising will be up, and learned that needs to be clarified. “Make sure both parties know the terms,” he said.
In other business: there was a 30-minute executive session for discussion of personnel; and board members accepted federal Title program funds totaling more than $1.2 million, which was nearly $52,000 more than last year.

Back to school
Board member Susan Young commented on the Back to School Bash held earlier in the day. “The band never sounded better, and Mr. Moore never looked sillier!” she said. GBHS Assistant Principal Daryl Moore provided comic relief with his garish costume and funky dance moves on stage. She also praised the program by guest speaker Judge Tom Webb and the Business Showcase that followed in the Panther Athletic Center. This year 59 businesses set up tables to welcome USD 428 employees.
Board President Joyce Carter noted that when Superintendent Reed spoke at the event, he thanked community members who support the district. When Reed thanked first responders and the “men in blue,” the audience stood and applauded.