USD 410 facing staff cuts for 2008-09 budget

After finding ways to ?painlessly? absorb declines in state aid due to declining student enrollment over the past 10 years, the board and administration of Unified School District 410 have informed staff that additional cuts required over the next three years are going to hurt.

The district is faced with the difficult task of reducing the operating budget by a minimum of $184,321 for the 2008-09 school year, a reduction of about 2.7 percent on a total budget of nearly $6.79 million.

The budget reductions are projected to be annual challenges. Over the next three years, the cumulative decrease in the operating budget will total nearly $560,000 if the current enrollment pattern for kindergarten remains at 35 students, as it has for the past two years.

Total district enrollment will continue to decline because classes larger than 35 students are graduating each of the next several years. This year?s senior class has 64 students, for example.

?We lost around 30 students this year, we?ll probably lose another 30 students next year and probably another 30 the year after that,? said Superintendent Doug Huxman.

District officials met with the district staff Friday, March 14, to explain the financial situation.

?One of the things we talked about with the staff was that most small districts that have dealt with declining enrollment have done an excellent job of absorbing whatever they have to do without?and so it?s been kind of seamless,? Huxman said.

?Our budgets are made of people, programs and things. We?ve basically cut back on everything else, but we?re down to people, programs and things now. That?s what we?re having to look at.?

Huxman said ?people??staff compensation?comprise about about two-thirds of the operating budget.

?You can see where we have to look,? he said. ?You try to do these things by attrition, retirement, etc., even though we may feel like we?ve got a pretty young (certified) staff. There aren?t many of them my age.?

Huxman said several classified staff are closer to retirement age, but with the district adding facilities, reducing the staff needed to maintain them would not be prudent either.

Huxman said the board has discussed several reduction scenarios, but have made no formal decisions yet. A decision will need to be made by April 25 because state law mandates that a board must inform staff by May 1 if contracts will not be renewed.

Staff have until May 15 to notify the board if they are returning for the next year.

Huxman conceded it?s difficult to talk about needing to reduce staff after the board initiated a bond issue for additional buildings only last year.

?The community and board felt like we needed to improve some facilities, so that?s what we?re doing,? he said.

The reality is that the current elementary school is short of classroom space, especially if all-day kindergarten is mandated by the state, or if the enrollment of kindergartners begins to increase again.

?It has created some issues with some of the (facility improvements) we?re putting in,? Huxman said.

?We haven?t even gone ahead yet with the transportation and maintenance and central office facility, and we?ll probably have to deal with that at some point, too.?

As for the decision-making process regarding cuts, Huxman said the administrators have been charged with the task of coming up with a plan of action.

?We have not dealt with that publicly yet because most of it involves people,? he said.

?We?re looking at different programs?we?ve looked at all kinds of things. We have not made any firm decisions at this point other than we know there are going to be some things that have to change.

?The other thing we?re trying to look at very carefully is what we can do without having a significant negative impact on the education of kids. And that?s tough. That?s really tough.

?I?ve been really proud of the way our administrators have been going through this because of their passion about what we?re doing,? he said.

?We?ve had some big success with how we?ve done things, and how we?ve accomplished things in this district. We want to make sure we do as little as possible to get into that turf.?

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