USD 410 board cuts one full-time staff position

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Unified School District 410 Board of Education voted last Wednesday in a special meeting essentially to eliminate one full-time certified teaching position in an effort to reduce its anticipated budget shortfall for the 2003-04 school year.

To get there, though, the board voted to nonrenew two current contracts and issue a new contract to a third certified staff member who resigned from one full-time with the stipulation of being hired for another.

By law, the board was required to make staff-reduction decisions before May 1, the date when teaching contracts are otherwise automatically renewed.

At this same meeting, the board also reviewed a list of potential revenue enhancers and spending cuts-ranked according to priority by the district’s leadership team-that still could be implemented to eliminate the rest of the deficit, which may not reach $300,000 after all.

Superintendent Gordon Mohn said that unless legislators in Topeka make late cuts in the state’s base funding, the estimated deficit for 2003-04 will be “$200,000 or below.”

The board does not have to act on any of the recommended revenue enhancers and spending cuts until the final budget is presented for approval in August.

Before acting on the certified staffing issue, the board met in executive session for about 95 minutes, then voted 7-0 in public session to nonrenew the teaching contracts of Sharon Jost and Michelle Faul.

Jost divides her time between teaching third grade and being a Title I aide. Faul teaches a morning section of kindergarten.

The board then voted 7-0 to eliminate the full-time position of curriculum coordinator. To do so, the board accepted the resignation of Joyce Loewen, who currently fills that position. Loewen resigned on the condition that she be offered a full-time teaching contract this fall. The board accepted those terms.

In another budget move, the board voted 7-0 to accepted a letter of resignation from Gregg Walker, band director, on the stipulation that he would be offered a new teaching contract for this fall.

The net effect of that move was to reduce Walker’s supplemental contract for the summer months from 30 band days to 20 days at a savings to the district of $2,263.

Walker uses the summer days for lessons and marching-band practice.

Then, in a move not directly related to the budget, the board voted 7-0 to amend Evan Yoder’s employment contract to make him elementary school principal instead of middle school principal.

The board then voted 7-0 to offer a two-year contract to Corey Burton to become middle school principal and curriculum coordinator at a salary of $50,000 a year.

Burton currently teaches business classes at the high school.

Yoder will succeed Pat Call as HES principal. Call resigned that position recently to become superintendent of schools in Hill City.

Following the board’s staff-related decisions, Mohn reviewed the list of revenue enhancers and spending cuts recommended by the district’s leadership team.

A ranking of 31 items with an estimated impact of $389,857 was divided into four categories:

n 10 items as “highest priority” with a projected value of $196,721;

n five items as “high priority” valued at $103,885;

n 10 items as “possible but with reservations” valued at $21,757;

n six items as “considered but not recommended” valued at $67,494.

At the top of the “highest priority” list was eliminating one section of kindergarten for a savings of $15,012-which was accomplished by nonrenewing Faul’s contract. The district expects only 25 kindergarten students this fall and will place them in two sections instead of three.

The “highest priority” recommendation with the biggest financial impact was to increase the local option budget, an option which ranked fifth on the list. Raising the LOB from the current 19 percent to the maximum 25 percent would generate $147,374.

If that course is followed, the leadership team recommended reducing the capital outlay levy by 2 mills, resulting in an overall tax increase of an estimated 3.75 mills.

Following is a list of the leadership team’s recommended revenue enhancers and spending cuts as it was distributed at Wednesday’s meeting.

HIGHEST PRIORITY

1. Staffing Option A-Eliminate one section of kindergarten. Comment: A kindergarten enrollment for 2003-04 of 25 students warrants this reduction in staffing. (Save $15,012)

2. Eliminate vocal accompanist at HHS/HMS. Comment: Vocal music staff have indicated that an accompanist is not needed for the 2003-04 school year. (Save $1,080)

3. Eliminate percussion aide. Comment: Band staff members will be expected to provide instruction to members of the percussion section. (Save $1,500)

4. Establish driver’s ed. fee at $75. Comment: Most schools in the area already charge for driver’s education. Students qualifying for reduced-price meals would be charged $45 for the driver’s ed. service. Fees would be waived for students for free meals. (Raise $4,000)

5. Eliminate Lynn Penner’s contract. Comment: Responsibilities for asbestos compliance, fire alarm inspections and other related items would be assumed by the existing maintenance staff. (Save $1,600)

6. Eliminate custodial pay for spring break. Comment: With spring break being in late March, the work demands for custodians during spring break are minimal. These employees would still be considered full-time and would retain their full vacation benefit. (Save $2,612)

7. Reduce tech assistant. Comment: A resignation has been received for this position. Existing tech staff will assume these responsibilities. (Save $18,530)

8. Increase local option budget (LOB) to maximum. Comment: It is recommended that in conjunction with the increase, the capital-outlay mill levy be reduced by 2 mills. This would result in an overall increase of the mill levy of about a 3.75. (Raise $147,374)

9. Staff Option B-Reduce band days from 30 to 20. Comment: This time is used for summer lessons and marching-band practice. The time allotted for these services would be reduced and/or the time would be used more efficiently. (Save $2,263)

10. Textbook fee increase of $5. Comment: This would be a minimal increase that would impact all families in the district. (Raise $2,750)

IMPACT: $196,721 (Running total: $196,721)

HIGH PRIORITY

11. Staff Option B-Eliminate curriculum coordinator; eliminate seventh-grade team-teaching and reassign administrative responsibilities. Comment: This option would remove staff inefficiencies at seventh grade, redesign expectations for administrative coverage, and assign highly qualified staff members to the principalships at the middle and elementary schools. (Save $48,128 [adjusted to $32,000])

12. Reduce building budgets. Comment: The district has adjusted for this reduced level and principals indicate they will be able to operate within these limits and not deny essential services to teachers and students. (Save $30,000)

13. Reduce cash carryover by 10 percent. Comment: Current carryover levels can be safely reduced without significant risk to the district’s financial future. (Raise $17,676)

14. Reduce in-service by 15 percent. Comment: We are estimating that in 2002-03 the in-service budget will be under-spent. Also some federal funds can be used to replace some of the current in-service costs. (Save $2,000)

15. Reduce national meeting expense. Comment: This reduces dollars budgeted for these meetings, but will allow the practice to continue. (Save $2,000)

IMPACT: $103,885 (Running total: $300,606)

POSSIBLE BUT WITH RESERVATIONS

16. Increase HHS/HMS activity fee by $5. Comment: This would be a small increase in the fee, but parents have already seen a $5 increase in textbook fees. (Raise $2,000)

17. Eliminate Prairie View counseling at HHS/HMS. Comment: Would like to keep this in the budget, but have asked that principals use more discretion in its use. (Save $2,000)

18. Reduce FFA trips by half. Comment: It will be difficult to determine which trips to eliminate. The HHS principal supports reductions in this area but would like to not be tied to a required reduction. (Save $2,000)

19. Eliminate HES tech facilitator position. Comment: By eliminating one person from the tech staff, more demands for support will be made from this position. (Save $2,157)

20. Eliminate board support of out-of-state trips. Comment: The board can become more discretionary in supporting these types of trips, but keeping dollars in the budget would allow the board to decide on a case-by-case basis. (Save $2,500)

21. Eliminate summer weight-room program. Comment: Without someone assigned to supervise this activity, the district exposes itself to greater risk. Eliminating the program would have an adverse effect on athletic programs. (Save $1,250)

22. Reduce HHS counselor secretary by one half. Comment: If secretarial staff is reduced, this would be the first place to consider. However, many worthwhile services to HHS students and families would have to be eliminated. (Save $6,066)

23. Eliminate food at staff, SBC and BOE meetings. Comment: These costs are minimal. Providing food and meals has a positive staff and public-relations impact. (Save $1,200)

24. Eliminate baseball program. Comment: If athletic programs are eliminated, this is the sport with the fewest participants in regard to the number needed to field a team. It is recommended that the program be dropped if there is not sufficient participation next spring. It is best to allow the program to be dropped due to low numbers, not because of budget-cutting measures. (Save $5,500)

25. Eliminate golf program. Comment: If a second athletic program is dropped, it is recommended that the board consider golf. (Save $4,400)

IMPACT: $21,757 (Running total: $322,363)

CONSIDERED BUT NOT RECOMMENDED

26. Reduce tech center operating fund. Comment: The cost to maintain and enhance equipment in the facility is high. Reducing spending in this area would cause obsolescence. Pressure would exist to find dollars to fund these enhancements. (Save $5,000)

27. Sports participation fee at $10. Comment: Activities have a positive impact on students. It is expensive to send children to school. The administrative enforcement of the fee would be difficult. Additional parent responsibility to meet this financial challenge is coming from other fee increases. (Raise $4,850)

28. Staffing Option C-third grade. Comment: Adequate teacher support in grades K-3 is essential for student success. While class sizes of 19 might be acceptable, they are high. Any increase in enrollment next year at third grade would have a negative impact. (Save $19,249)

29. Reduce maintenance/custodial hours by 5 percent. Comment: Eliminating custodial services during spring break can be accomplished with no impact on condition or cleanliness of the facility. A 5 percent reduction would have a negative impact. (Save $10,695)

30. In-town busing. Comment: In-town busing was created to reduce traffic congestion at HES. Eliminating this service would create greater traffic concerns for children leaving HES in the afternoon. (Save $1,200)

31. Reduce cash carryover another 15 percent. Comment: A reduction in carryover of this amount would reduce carryover funds that can be used in the future as a cushion for unanticipated expenses. (Raise $26,500)

IMPACT: $67,494 (Running total: $389,857)

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