The Hastings Public Schools Board of Education updated its expenditure-reducing course Monday with the partial-to-full elimination of one districtwide administrative position while filling two other administrative posts.
The changes, among others, were made Monday evening during the board’s regular May meeting at the City Building.
HPS Director of Learning Chad Dumas is resigning his position and will work in in Ames, Iowa. HPS Superintendent Craig Kautz said he expects Jeff Schneider, superintendent-elect, to elevate a current administrator from within HPS to fill the director of learning position.
A second existing position, called director of learning and support, then will be left fully or partially unfilled, according to Kautz. By not filling that position, the board expects savings of $54,500 to $109,000.
“We are greatly appreciative of what the community did for us as far as the levy override; there is no question that that's going to help us,” Kautz said. “We need to remind everybody, it’s not one lever we have to pull, we had to pull about every lever we have.”
On May 14, voters in the Hastings Public School District approved allowing the district to levy up to 7 cents per $100 of taxable valuation in excess of a state-imposed property tax lid for the next five years. The margin of victory for the special levy ballot question was 61 percent to 39 percent.
The school board had promised voters that if the override was approved, providing needed revenue to fund district operations, the board would reduce a separate property tax levy for bond debt service by a commensurate amount, and in that way make the override “levy-neutral” for property taxpayers.
Reducing the bond levy will extend the time needed to pay off existing construction-related debt, but the bonds still will be retired well ahead of the original schedule.
The board on Monday also approved changing a planned reduction of two full-time elementary teaching staff and now will reduce only one full-time elementary teaching staff. But with the director of learning and support position not filled, the board still expects personnel expenditures to decrease by $1,500 to $48,000.
“We’re staying on our target of trying to eliminate so much expenditure, but rather than a teacher, we are losing an administration position,” Kautz said.
Schneider said officials will have a better understanding of HPS’s financial position after the Nebraska Legislature finishes talks on the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Act (TEEOSA) formula for state aid to public school districts.
“We believe that we are not being properly funded, and while the community is doing everything they can, and the community has been fantastic in passing a levy override, we still are going to have to (reduce expenditure),” Kautz said. “What the levy override will help us do is slow down the demise of our cash reserve and also probably give us a lot more flexibility in whether we make additional reductions or not.”
In other key personnel news Monday, the board approved hiring David Essink as the district director of human resources. Essink currently is the Hastings Middle School principal.
Essink will pick up the human resources duties from Kautz, who has handled them throughout his nearly 13-year tenure as superintendent. Kautz will retire June 30.
Schneider, the district’s current director of finance, will continue to handle the finance duties once he succeeds Kautz as superintendent on July 1. So although the district is hiring an administrator for the specific job of human resources director at this time where one had not been in place for many years, it will be able to offset the associated expense by not replacing Schneider in the finance position.
The board also approved hiring Shelli Pfeifer to succeed Essink as principal of Hastings Middle School. Pfeifer currently is an assistant principal at Westridge Middle School in Grand Island.
In other business Monday, the school board honored 19 HPS staff member who are retiring. The retirees served the district for a combined 494 years.
The board also approved the addition of a wrestling camp to the list of available summer athletic camps and approved repairs to the circle drive at Hawthorne Elementary school and to brickwork at Hastings Senior High.