Shawnee Mission school budget reflects change in staffing with fewer aides, lower class size guidelines

The Shawnee Mission School District starts the new school year with a new budget that reflects significant changes in classroom staffing and capital spending. It also accounts for the first change to the salary schedule in several years.

Briarwood was one of the schools that faced concerns with class size last school year.

One substantive change is in the staffing strategy which led to eliminating approximately 125 full-time equivalent positions for aides and para-professionals combined. Aides also are now at a minimum seven-hour day. In conjunction with the reduction in aides, the number of teachers has been increased at the elementary level and the staffing guidelines have changed at the elementary to reduce class sizes in some grade levels. This year, classes in kindergarten through second grade are limited to 24 students. The most significant impact is at second grade where the maximum was lowered from 29 to 24. The board was told last spring, though, that some buildings may not have room to add class sections.

Overall, the number of teachers in the budget was scheduled down, due to projected high school enrollment, according to the district. However, Superintendent Jim Hinson said last week that discussions were being held to potentially adding more teachers to meet an enrollment that is 300 students greater than this time last year. The budget planned for 127 more students.

At the end of the last school year, the district changed the class size guidelines to limit the number of students in lower grades. The use of fewer aides and more teachers in smaller classes is part of a new staffing direction, according to the district. The number of para-professionals is tied directly to the education plans of special education students, Hinson said.

The staffing changes saved approximately $3million, but salary increases added $7 million to the budget. The general fund spending increased by only one percent or $1.4 million. Additional revenue this year came from an increase in the local option budget and a slight increase in state aid per student.

Total spending increased 25 percent to $405 million, but most of that increase was in capital outlay which included money for a possible new administration building, one elementary rebuild and the first round of Apple expenses for the technology project. Those funds can only be used for capital projects and the tax rate to support the fund is capped.

The assessed valuation in the district increased by four percent and the mill rate for Shawnee Mission taxpayers will increase by .28.