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home : news : news Tuesday, May 31, 2016

3/16/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Central school board approves budget cut recommendations

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

A $758,000 budget cut in the Central Community School District will result in the elimination of seven positions for the 2013/14 school year, including the family resource director (FRC), two elementary school teachers, two high school teachers and two kindergarten associates.

As part of the budget reductions, the district already has eliminated four other positions - transportation director, transportation mechanic and two bus drivers.

In addition, the budget cuts include reducing hours for an intermediate school art teacher, intermediate school music teacher, intermediate/middle school band teacher, and high school language arts teacher, as well as reducing extended contract days for intermediate/middle school band, high school band and high school agriculture.

The Central Community School Board approved the superintendent's recommended budget reductions Wednesday night, March 13.

The list of budget cuts has been revised since the school board last reviewed it at a special meeting Feb. 27. The prior list included the complete elimination of a music teacher at the intermediate school, but the revised list eliminates the long-term substitute in that position and replaces it with a .58-time music teacher.

The change brings the total amount of reductions to $758,510, down from $858,000 in the original proposal presented to the board Feb. 12.

Two kindergarten teaching positions that had been considered in the original reduction plan were removed after registration Feb. 19 showed sufficient enrollment for five sections of kindergarten.

Superintendent Dan Peterson has said the district needs to cut around $800,000 to maintain sound financial footing, based on the loss of $220,237 in state funding due to declining enrollment, $400,000 needed to stabilize the district's unspent general fund balance and an estimated $200,000 in personnel cost increases.

Petersen said Wednesday night the cuts are less than originally intended, but its possible personnel cost increases could end up less than estimated as a result of contract negotiations and help make up the difference.

In discussion prior to approving the reductions, board member Jim Irwin said he's nervous about changes that have lowered the amount the district is cutting by $100,000, but he acknowledged administrators have a difficult balancing act.

"It's never easy to make these cuts, and these are the deepest cuts since I've been here," he said.

Board member Steve Fuglsang said he's glad to see the adjustment to retain a part-time music teacher at the intermediate school.

However, he said he's concerned about the elementary cuts that would eliminate one first-grade and one second-grade teacher and reduce the sections of each grade level from five to four.

The cap of 24 students per class leaves just one open seat in first grade and three open seats in second grade.

"If we bump over, I'm strongly advocating we fill those positions," Fuglsang said.

Fuglsang said the FRC director is a needed position, and he will support finding a way for the community to support it, but can't justify saving the position if it means eliminating another teacher.

"I've never questioned the value of it. It's a matter of where we're being pushed and the decisions we have to make," he said.

Board member Jennifer Naeve said she shares Fuglsang's view, and she referenced data presented earlier in the meeting that showed substantial drops in third-grade test scores this year.

She asked elementary principal Jennifer Vance if the school will have the resources to show student improvement in light of the cuts.

Vance said it will be difficult but possible if elementary teachers work as a team to share the burden.

Naeve asked whether Vance and the elementary counselor, who will be taking over some of the duties of the FRC director, will be able to handle that job in addition to working on student interventions and academic improvement.

"It's going to be hard. I'm not going to lie and say it'll be easy for me or anyone else in the building," Vance said.

Asked about backing from teaching staff, Vance said teachers have concerns but understand the rationale behind the cuts, and she feels she has their support.

Board member Kurt Rickard complimented administrators "for having the lowest-impact reductions (on the classroom) we could come up with."

He said he won't second guess the administrative recommendations, with the exception of the elementary level cuts, where he has concerns about poor reading scores.

"I really think we need mastery of reading at that level, and if we're not getting it, we need to spend more money," he said.

Fuglsang added he appreciates the administration's effort to balance the impact of cuts on core courses and fine arts.

Board president Christy Kunz thanked administrators for their work and noted the majority of the cuts in classroom teachers were managed through attrition.

Kunz said she values the FRC director and would support efforts to raise money for the position in the community.

"There's not a position I didn't hear more from the community on as that," Kunz said.

Naeve said she'd like the board to come back and reflect on the cuts in a few months, although the she acknowledged the full impact won't be felt until next school year.

With that, the board voted unanimously to approve the recommendation.

In addition to the personnel cuts, the reductions include savings from early retirements, a decrease in Internet service costs, reducing building and office supply budgets, transferring some software costs to the nutrition department and reducing technical support expenses.

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