By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
Three newcomers will join incumbent Tammy Sutherland-Abbott on the USD No. 480 School Board.
Steve Helm, who has become known for his research into district expenditures and policies and has written letters to the editor to inform the public on district activity, received the most votes.
“I’m shocked and relieved,” Helm said. “I think we (the public) all have the same concerns. I think that is why the vote turned out the way it did. Perhaps it is a conservative shift. That’s the way the public wanted to go. We have to dig in and hit the ground running on the budget. They start that budget right when we take office. We have to be quick learners. Budget will take up a lot of time. It will be a tough budget.”
Newcomer Delvin Kinser finished second overall.
“I was pleased,” Kinser said. “It will be an interesting time over the next couple of years at least. I look forward to serving and doing what I can to not only hep the Liberal school system but to rebuild the public’s trust in what USD 480 is doing. It will take a team effort with the new board members and those who are already serving. I am confident we will. To me, the most important two things, we have to make sure we can have a budget that we can afford, the community can afford and will best serve our kids and our teachers. The other thing is we have to be open and honest with the public about what we are doing and work to rebuild public trust with what the board is doing and what the adminstration is doing. They are trying to do the best they can for our kids and we have to speak openly and honestly and rebuild the public’s trust. Then we can move forward and do some things we haven’t been able to afford to do. It will take open and honest communication with the board, administration and the public to make that happen. That is what my focus will be.”
Tammy Sutherland-Abbott was re-elected for the second time but had to overcome a letter-writing campaign that attacked her for her vote supporting the renovations at Redskin Field. Current board member Cheryl Louderback also wrote a letter claiming Sutherland-Abbott voted to raise taxes. In the end, the voters returned Sutherland-Abbott while fellow incumbent Stacy Johnson failed to retain his seat on the board.
“I am very proud our community saw me for who I truly am,” she said. “I respect their values and they respect my value for education. I still believe that we have to live within our budget.”
Sutherland-Abbott said the new board will now have to find a way to make up for the state budget cuts as well as how to address the recent $715,000 increase that created 14 new positions.
“When the state told us we are cutting funds, we should only have had to worry about our cuts, not additional expenditures,” she said. “We may have to figure out how to fund those who were offered contracts for the first year, but the board will have to decide whether to retain those positions or not. We can’t spend the money if we don’t have it.”
Chris Jewell said he was ready to make a difference.
“I’m ready. Is it July yet?” Jewell said. “I think we have to tackle the budget first. Biggest thing staring at us that we will inherit. Other thing is to see what happens in May and June board meetings to see what happens. That can be interesting. The budget and getting some confidence back in the community will be two biggest hurdles as I see it. I think, maybe my name was a little more known. I don’t think I told any stories, and I know I will try to be a board member, if you have a problem, I will listen and be honest with them. No matter how big or small, we need to listen. I think that is what the community is looking for, someone to listen and get back on track.”
The vote will be made official Friday when the Seward County Commission canvasses the election.