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School board approves Neighborhood Revitalization Grant
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Ellinwood City Manager Bud Newberry addressed the USD 355 Board of Education Monday night at their regular meeting, explaining the proposed neighborhood revitalization plan.  He provided details of how taxpayers are provided tax rebates over the course of five to eight years, depending on the location of their project, in an effort to incentivize improvements that will lead to significant increases in valuation of property in the district.  
“When the taxes are rebated, they are rebated for all the taxing entities involved.  This includes taxes collected for the school district,” he said.
Board member Gregory Baker asked for clarification on the types of property that were eligible.  Newberry explained either residential or commercial were eligible.
Superintendent Ben Jacobs also added that the rebates would not impact the existing tax base.   
“This only impacts the hypothetical increases in the tax base,” he said.  
The whole purpose is to encourage new construction.  What can happen, Newberry explained, is people with plans to build in the future are more apt to stay in Ellinwood and build, rather than look at neighboring communities, if the plan is in place.  This convinced the board to move ahead, and they approved the plan as presented.  

Workshops and speakers
Jacobs informed the board he will be attending an upcoming KASB school finance workshop in October, and invited members to consider coming.  Attendees will go over all aspects of the state’s new block grant, and other aspects including the new formula for school funding that is in the works.  There will be no cost to the district for members to attend.
Also, on Oct. 9, there will be three important speakers coming to the district, including the Kansas Commissioner of Education, Randy Watson, KSHSAA Executive Director Gary Musselman, and Andy Kay to talk about tax policies on education and schools in Kansas.
The administration is approving individual professional development plans, which will go along with the district and building goals for the year.

Block grant
During the budget portion of the meeting, Jacobs briefly explained why figures on the district’s accounts were higher than expected.  Because the new block grants from the state include direct payment to the district of LOB and KPERS payments, the balance of the general fund appeared to be inflated.  However, most of the increase would filter away over the course of the year.  
“Block grants have changed how we fund schools, and it has changed how they receive and spend money,” he said.  “This is because they have switched from a school-based need formula to a block grant formula. You’re going to have to change your thought process when you look at this.”  

Other items of discussion and actions taken at the USD 355 Board of Education meeting included:

Awarded the September Eagle Excellence Award to Angela Petersen
Board member John Sturn reported on his attendance at the MTSS program, which he found very educational.  Teachers also confided in him their support for the program.  
Board member Gregory Baker commented on quality of the football game broadcast on the local cable channel.  He was very impressed.
Superintendent Ben Jacobs reported on enrollment in the district.  There are currently 221 students at the grade school, 62 at the middle school, and 140 at the high school, as well as 73 at St. Joseph’s Catholic School, which are counted due to their participation in some aspects of the district.  There are 100 students in grades designated for KSHSAA, and one student is expected to transfer to the Kansas Math and Science academy in Hays, leaving the district with 99.  This puts the district in a 2A status for participation in high school sports and activities.  
Heard reports from the grade school administrator and the athletics director at the middle school and high school.
Approved the consent agenda.
Accepted gifts from the P.A.C., one of $1,000 for ACT Power Prep, and $745 reimbursement for a picnic held for teachers.  The committee is also purchasing materials for a “gagaball” court after approving a proposal from fourth grade student Hannah Widget who wanted to donate the court to the school.
A gift of uniforms from the high school football coach was also approved by the board.  The uniforms were purchased after the coach raised funds.  He was informed of the district’s protocols for uniform turnover, but with the uniforms already custom made and purchased, the board opted to approve the gift and adjust the uniform rotation schedule accordingly.
Heard a status report on district vehicles from the superintendent and discussed need for a new maintenance vehicle.
Jacobs informed the board that there are 10 wooden chairs and an orange loveseat that the district will discard, and there is surplus that will be purchased by St. Joseph School.
The next meeting of the USD 355 Board of Education will be Oct. 12 at the Ellinwood High School and Public Library.