School budget features funds for renovation of ag building

HARTINGTON —  The Hartington-Newcastle School Board voted Monday on a new budget that asks taxpayers for $5.2 million.
This is an increase in the tax-asking of $87,000.
“A combination of two things is causing us to ask for a slight increase in tax asking,” Supt. A.J. Johnson said.
Johnson said the valuation in the school district went down $14.9 million this year. This is the second year in a row the total valuation went down by $14 million, he said.
The biggest budget increase is in special education, Johnson said.
“We have a couple of high-need students in the District this year,” he said.
In all, the District has six students that require outside placement in order to meet their educational needs.
This year’s budget also includes a 2.5 percent raise for all non-certified staff, and a $750 base salary increase for teachers, as well.
The new budget also funds the addition of one more teacher. A second kindergarten teacher was added this year, since the kindergarten class is so large.
Supt. Johnson said the Board tried to keep the line on spending down.
“The taxpayers tell us, ‘please don’t ask for any more than what you need,’  Now that we have a healthy reserve, we really want to ask for what we think we are going to spend and that’s it,” Johnson said.
This year’s budget will also add $200,000 to the building fund. Johnson said that fund is being built up so there will be enough money there to update or replace the ag building.
There will be $1.1 million in the building fund account, now, which should be enough to update the ag building, Johnson said.
Two other projects the Board hopes to see completed this budget year include replacing some sidewalk in front of the high school and refinishing and repainting the wood gym floor. This would be the first major work done to the gym floor since it was installed in 2009.
Besides passing the new budget, the School Board also voted Monday to increase school lunch prices this year by .10 for students and .20 for adults.
A new teacher evaluation system has also been adopted.
“We have been working on this for two years,” Johnson said. “We are trying to move from a checklist of minimum standards to an evaluation that helps the teacher improve and helps the kids learn. That was one of my first goals as Superintendent — to get this system in place and operational.”