School board discusses trimming district budget
Unlike the previous two budget-related meetings, Monday night's Board of Education gathering consisted of board-member discussion about where to proceed with trimming around $236,000 off next year's budget because of possible cuts in state aid.
Board President Ed Schulte quickly set that tone to let the 30-some patrons on hand know up front that Monday's work session wouldn't be another forum for patrons to make their pleas about where cuts should or shouldn't be made.
"During the last several meetings we've had a lot of input from patrons and that's good," Schulte said to open the meeting. "We'd like to have some board discussions tonight. Our goals tonight are to make sure we're all talking the same language.
"At next week's regular meeting will be for any decisions and motions," he said. "There won't be any discussion from the crowd tonight. What we planned on tonight is a board work session."
Schulte then went on to explain that the board would discuss philosophy, number of dollars and how to get there regarding budget cuts. He said there are three major concerns: anticipated increases in utilities and insurance costs; negotiations to determine what if any salary increases would be given to staff; and the issue of what state funding will be.
"We need to be prepared for a roll back or cut in state funding," he said.
From there, the board discussed a variety of issues, including the additional funding the district will receive from the state as a result of the new elementary school and additions to Vinland Elementary and Baldwin Junior High School. That amounts to around $218,000, but only lasts for two years. It is designed to help school districts with additional costs from new facilities. The board is considering that a possible "cushion" in next year's budget, depending on what happens with the rest of state funding.
Also discussed were administrative positions, including the principals at the two rural schools, possible cuts in activities and increases in activity fees. Supt. James White said administrative positions were looked at closely, including the athletic director position, and comparisons were made with surrounding schools regarding salaries and multiple duties. He had a spread sheet that showed the comparisons with 12 schools, which included all Frontier League schools as well as DeSoto and Ottawa. It showed Baldwin's salaries to be in the mid range of the dozen.
"I don't believe we're overstaffed in those areas with all the activities and other things that they're asked to do," White said. "The mix that we have is outstanding and that's how I feel."
The discussion on activities was far ranging, including the "no cut policy" that has been in effect for all sports in the district. It was, however, decided not to restrict participation, even if it could mean less supervision was necessary.
A suggestion from Board Member Lonnie Broers was to have all activities take a 5 percent cut in budget.
"I think it's another way of looking at it," said Broers. "it's a way to save money without singling anyone out."
Another suggestion was to increase activity fees more than the current proposal of $5.
"We should look at increasing pay to play, such as what is paid to the recreation commission," said Board Member Alison Bauer. "I want my daughter to play softball, my daughter wants to play softball, so I pay the $50. "That might not be a popular idea, but these are tough budgetary times.
"I think we need something more realistic than $25," said Bauer. "I think we need to look at something with sports and activities. Although I am for them, there are people out there that say 'this is not our mission, it's to educate, so cut them.'"
White was directed to bring numbers that would reflect the 5 percent cuts and increased fees to the regular board meeting next week where decisions could be made. Board members also said there would be consideration made for families with several children participating and mulitiple-activity participants. Reducing transportation costs, as in doing away with longer trips, was another discussion item.
From there, the discussion turned to teacher raises. It was the consensus of the board to make the 3 or 5 percent budget cuts to allow for some sort of raise. White said he stands behind his recommendation that to make those kind of cuts, staffing will have to be reduced.
Following the three-hour discussion, Schulte wrapped the meeting up by letting patrons know again that they'll have a chance to express their concerns at Monday's regular meeting at 7 p.m. at Marion Springs Elementary School.
"We do have another meeting coming up. If you have questions, bring them to a board member or Mr. White and there will another chance to give your input at the next board meeting," he said.
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