5/11/20 School Board Meeting Guide

Last night’s school board meeting was again held online. The main topic of discussion was how to address the budget crisis caused by the pandemic. Here’s a rundown:

The Budget Crisis

The budget shortfall for next year is currently $6.1 million assuming a 1.5% tax increase, and $7.5 million with no tax increase. The causes of the shortfall were the focus of the April 27th meeting. Last night the administration proposed $4 million in budget cuts to try and close this budget gap. Those cuts include:

  • A 10% reduction in building and department budgets: There is very little room in these budgets as they are, because previous cuts of several years ago were never restored. This reduction will mean fewer instructional resources, supplies, subscriptions, and other materials for our students. (This should save approximately $700,000)
  • A reduction in teachers: Three retiring elementary teachers, and four retiring high school teachers, will not be replaced. The district will also eliminate four instructional aid positions, seasonal summer maintenance staff, and 1.5 positions in the technology office. These reductions will mean larger class sizes for our students, and will require a change in class scheduling at the high school. (This should save approximately $1.2 million in salaries and benefits).
  • Debt restructuring: The district will change the schedule for repaying its debt. (This will free up $947,000 in the budget next year as well as $680,000 the following year and $1.2 million in 2022-2023, but will ultimately cost taxpayers $275,000 more in increased interest and fees.)
  • Capital reserve reduction: The district will eliminate a $500,000 payment to its capital reserve fund.
  • Fund balance: The district will use $500,000 of its existing fund balance. This introduces a small structural deficit into the budget– see my post Structural Deficits: Are Your Eyes Glazed Over Yet? for more information.
  • Reduced professional development: Teachers and administrators will not attend many of the usual educational conferences and professional development events outside the district next year. (This should save about $100,000, mostly in substitute teacher costs that would normally be needed while teachers were in such training.)

In developing these cuts, the administration has done its best to minimize their impact on the district’s educational programs. Still, they will be painful. And they will need to find an additional $2.1-$3.5 million before the budget can be finalized in June (as required by law). There are no winners here. You can take a look at the presentation slides from last night’s meeting yourself here, and watch the presentation and discussion here.

The Turf Field

There was also some discussion of a small change to the turf field project, involving how the existing dirt on the field will be handled. The project will nonetheless stay within the existing budget as contingencies like this were envisioned from the get go. You can view documents for this change here; watch the discussion here.

Special Board Meeting: May 26

The board has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, May 26th, for additional discussion and debate of the budget crisis. The meeting will be online and open to the pubic, as usual.

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