While Axtell Education Center may not offer high school programs following budget cuts, that doesn’t mean there won’t be an alternative high school program in Newton.
Superintendent John Morton continues to have meetings with Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas to have that organization take over the operation of alternative high school programs in Newton — and where those classes would meet is still up in the air.
“The Hutchinson Community College campus has run out of space,” Morton said. “The building would not be empty.”
The change will represent a savings to the district —part of more than $820,000 in budget cuts made  this spring as a response to the loss of $1.4 million in state funding. The Legislature approved about $100 million in cuts to education funding this year — a move Morton said turned the clock back at least a decade.
“I don’t know where we can go. We are almost at 1992 levels again,” Morton said. “It seems contrary to the governor’s plan to move Kansas forward economically.”
According to the Kansas Association of School Boards, the base budget per pupil will drop $232 to a 10-year low of $3,780 next school year. That is 5.8 percent lower than last year, and 14 percent below 2008-09.
Locally, in addition to the cuts, which now total $2.97 million over three years, the USD 373 board approved spending $300,000 of cash reserves and increasing the local option budget tax rate by 2.3 mills to raise another $450,000.
Both are moves Morton said the district did not want to make.
“What I am is hoping is by doing the Axtell change, and other things, is that we can ratchet back the reserves we need and lessen the mill levy increase we would need,” Morton said.
Moving the alternative program to the high school is one possibility, but that has yet to be decided. Also unclear is what staff ESSDACK would retain — though it is known that current principal Lisa Moore will move to the high school, taking the role of assistant principal vacated by a retiring Janice Whitfield.
This spring the district is eliminating two administrative positions — one at the building level and one at the district level — as part of budget cuts.  In addition to Whitfield, two assistant superintendents have retired — meaning those cuts can be made through attrition.