School board trims $622,000 from budget

The District 55 School Board passed its final round of cuts, prioritizing a list of the final 10 items on a proposed reduction list from the board’s July 12 meeting.

Members of the board wanted additional time to consider the cuts and allow time for new developments with regard to revenues. The board entered a work session to discuss the proposals Monday night, reaching consensus on the cuts within about 45 minutes.

The board unanimously approved the proposal during the regular meeting that followed. Present were Leena Neuschwander, Billie Weber, Chanz Keeney, Dale Keene, Chairman Jason Redick, Mike Reynolds, John Fassler and Jenny Daniels. David VanDerlip was absent.

The district has had to cut its approved 2010-11 budget after state revenue projections were released in May, showing a $1.1 million shortfall for District 55.

The board approved about $516,000 in cuts last month in a partial approval of a reductions plan crafted by district administrators. Those cuts included $15,000 in pool expenditures for summer operations. The Sweet Home City Council agreed to fund half of the pool’s summer operations.

Monday night, the board cut another $622,000 in expenditures that are prioritized for restoration should new revenues become available.

The board discussed a $10 billion federal bailout already approved by the Senate.

The House was scheduled to vote on the bill on Tuesday, Supt. Larry Horton said. Distributed by the state, it would likely provide $400,000 to the School District.

The district and its employees have tentatively agreed to cut four school days from the 2010-11 school year.

The teachers union has yet to ratify the agreement. Union officials expect a vote at the end of the month when teachers return to work.

Under the agreement, the district must restore one day for each $260,000 in funding that is restored.

If the federal bailout money becomes available, the district will be obligated to restore one day. That would cost approximately $65,000.

In total, the district would then be able to restore approximately $595,000 of its cuts from Monday night, which would include everything on the list except the police school resource officer, $40,000, which will remain unfunded for the 2010-11 school year.

The city is already committed to the personnel changes it had made in response to the budget cuts under discussion this summer by the School Board, Horton said.

From first priority to the last, the cuts approved Monday include paying early retirement costs from the Early Retirement Liability Fund, $135,000; reducing secretary time by two full-time equivalents, $70,000; reducing maintenance staff by one FTE, $45,000; reducing custodial positions at Holley and Crawfordsville by .5 FTE, $20,000; technology fund reductions, $20,000, half of the budgeted amount; a .5 FTE reduction in the cafeteria, $15,000; a 10-percent reduction in supplies, $27,000; no transfer of cash to the Early Retirement Liability Fund, $50,000; and reducing Public Employees Retirement System debt service contributions by 2 percent, $200,000.

Fassler said he wanted to move technology spending higher on the list, but other board members disagreed and Junior High Principal Hal Huschka told him that his school could stand receiving only half of the technology funds this year. Huschka warned that sustained reductions in technology spending would set the schools back.

Keeney told the board he was concerned about cutting custodial time by 25 percent at Holley and Crawfordsville schools.

Both schools need to be maintained, he said, and he would hate to see them deteriorate.

He also highlighted, with Business Manager Kevin Strong, the importance of paying the debt service on the PERS bond.

The district has gotten a little ahead on the debt service, and that’s why the district has the ability to reduce its payment this year, Strong said.

Right now the district has a liability of approximately $28 million.

The debt stems from a bond sale meant to cover the district’s liabilities in PERS.

The district borrowed $18 million at 5 percent interest and gave the money to PERS, which is supposed to invest the cash and ideally earn at least 8 percent interest, covering the district’s retirement liability and lowering the monthly PERS contributions paid by the district.