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USD 313 Board Approves Purchase of Masonic Lodge Building for Ad Astra Academies


By Lucky Kidd


BUHLER, Kan. — Buhler USD 313’s Ad Astra Academies will have a new home in the near future.

The USD 313 Board of Education last night approved the purchase of the Masonic Lodge building on East 23rd in Hutchinson for $235,000. Board members toured the lodge building last month, and at that time authorized Superintendent Cindy Couchman to negotiate the purchase, which will close September 15th.

Following a series of executive sessions the board agreed to pursue purchase of another property for a day care facility, which is part of a grant a Reno County Child Care Coalition was awarded from the Kansas Children’s Cabinet. The vote to pursue that was 4-3 with Laura Meyer-Dick, Monte Cross and Todd Carr voting against.

The Board agreed to move forward with hiring a construction manager at-risk for upcoming projects in the district. This process involves entering into a specified maximum cost for projects being pursued, and has been used in other area districts in the past.

Statements of qualifications are due by August 28th. Following that a number of other steps will be taken before presentations on specific proposals are made by prospective managers September 6th.

The Board also approved renewal of a contract with ATS, which provides custodial and maintenance services and staffing for USD 313, which it first entered into last year. The contract carries a monthly charge of $67,930.09, and will include the new Ad Astra facility. Additional provision is also made to add an additional custodial employee.

Publication of a budget that will basically keep the mill levy flat for the 2023-24 school year was authorized. The proposed budget requires a projected mill levy of 55.48 mills,.02 mills below the rate for the 2022-23 budget.

One difference for school districts compared to other property tax levying entities is the 20 mill statewide levy does not factor in the Revenue Neutral Rate, the rate that would raise the same tax revenue as the prior year.

RNR for schools includes the supplemental general or local option, capital outlay, and bond and interest funds, and the levy for those is projected at 35.48 mills, just over 2.2 mills over the revenue neutral rates.

In terms of what taxes would look like, if you were in the rare situation where your property valuation didn’t change over the past year, the part of a tax bill going to USD 313 would actually drop a few cents from the prior year. Hearings on the budget and exceeding RNR will be held prior to the September 11th Board meeting.

The Board approved selection of Heartland Credit Union Monday to host a Health Savings Account program for district employees. This is tied to changes in the district’s health insurance programs. HCU and First National Bank of Hutchinson submitted proposals to the board, and the decision was based on monthly fees for these accounts, which First National charged at two dollars a month and HCU did not impose a change.

Board members Todd Carr, Monte Cross, and Laura Meyer-Dick did not participate in the discussion or vote due to their employment or ownership interests in the entities submitting proposals.

A purchase of music shells, which are the panels set up behind musical groups to direct sounds towards audiences, was approved, and it wasn’t something they had any choice over. USD 313 has been borrowing shells from Hesston USD 460 for many years. The last time the panels were used, they sustained damage when being taken back to Hesston, due to a different vehicle being used than normal that caused the shells to bound around.

This will cost USD 313 just over $22,000, or what the Hesston district paid to purchase new shells less what it received as an insurance settlement.