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USD 410 board addresses possible budget cuts

Staff writer

USD 410 Board of Education needs to make about $300,000 in budget cuts for 2010-11, and board members saw a list of possible cuts Monday.

Possibilities run the gamut from cutting bus routes within 2.5 miles of school, to eliminating a food service position. Other possible cuts include cutting funding for out-of-state trips and ending some middle and high school sports. The expected budget shortfall is actually $475,000, but the district plans to reduce its operating reserves by about $175,000.

At the beginning of the meeting, several residents in attendance voiced concerns about some of the possible cuts.

High school wrestling coach Scott O’Hare spoke out in favor of keeping as many extracurricular activities as possible — singling out middle school wrestling, which was listed as a possible cut. Activities are important opportunities for at-risk students to get involved, he said.

There is a wrestling club available outside of school, but the club charges dues plus registration for tournaments, he said.

O’Hare said he has been involved in wrestling since he was 5 years old, and it helped shape his character.

Karen Fryhover spoke in support of of the district’s 4-year-old at-risk preschool program. The children it serves are at a statistically greater risk of dropping out of school, but preschool can help reduce that risk, she said.

Activities Director Robert Rempel doesn’t want to see extracurricular activities on the chopping block. For some students, activities keep them from dropping out of school.

Everybody would be happier if the district didn’t have to make any cuts, Hillsboro Middle School Principal Greg Brown said. Hillsboro schools are good at giving students chances to shine, and he would like it to stay that way.

Activities and sports are a good source for community pride, Board President Eddie Weber said. He pointed out the high school girls basketball team’s substate championship as something residents could celebrate.

USD 410 and its students face serious issues, Superintendent Steve Noble said. People don’t want to stop doing things that they have been able to do for years. The issue, he said, is with state funding for education. If the state hadn’t reduced school funding, districts wouldn’t be faced with as many difficult decisions.

Board members agreed that it would be best to have a public forum to discuss possible budget cuts. Board member Rod Koons said he liked the idea of a “conversation with the public.”

The board will invite state legislators to the meeting, with a date to be selected later.

A handout outlined 36 possible cuts, estimated to save a total of $360,300.

Eliminate:

  • funding for out-of-state trips $5,000
  • zero-hour German $5,600
  • SOCS Webhosting $3,100
  • fiber optic lease $900
  • after school activity bus routes $4,100
  • transportation for students within 2.5 miles of school $4,500
  • in-town after school bus route $2,200
  • elementary school English-as-a-second-language aide $5,900
  • one-half counselor position $16,800
  • middle school wrestling $3,000
  • high school golf $6,100
  • high school tennis $9,300
  • high school baseball $11,800
  • high school softball $9,300
  • strength and conditioning supplemental salary $6,000
  • one food service position $13,100

Reduce:

  • contracted services $2,400
  • employee overtime $11,500
  • costs of workers’ compensation insurance $4,300
  • instructional materials such as textbooks $51,200
  • technology support $11,300
  • administrative costs $12,000
  • professional development $15,700
  • busing for athletic contests $1,500
  • district’s contribution to Parents as Teachers $3,000
  • vocational equipment $2,600
  • field trip costs $7,500

Other cuts:

  • Schedule teacher committee work during regular contract day $14,000
  • Present either one drama or musical each year instead of one each $3,100
  • Move temperature control lease to capital outlay $54,500
  • Replace printed Oracle publication with online edition $3,000
  • Increase facility use fees $1,500
  • Use volunteers to work athletic contests $8,400
  • Utilize community service projects for gym cleaning $500
  • Run preschool as a Head Start program $24,700
  • Leave empty maintenance position vacant $20,900

Special education at a crossroads

Marion County Special Education Cooperative is facing its own budget issues, compounded by the Peabody-Burns district’s decision to leave the co-op.

“There’s no long-term solutions out there now,” USD 410 delegate Debbie Geis said.

The cooperative can make it through the current school year, she said, but the future is uncertain.

Noble outlined three possible courses of action for special education.

  • Keep MCSEC as it is, but possibly without Peabody-Burns.
  • Dissolve MCSEC, and create a new cooperative.
  • Contract special education services from McPherson.

McPherson seems amenable to working with USD 410, and doing so could save money, Noble said. However, there are advantages to keeping students — and jobs — closer to home, he said.

In other business:

  • The 2010-11 school calendar was approved. Classes will begin Aug. 18, and the fall semester will go through Dec. 22. Classes will resume Jan. 4 and go through May 24, 2011. Students will have an abbreviated spring break in 2011, March 16, 17, and 18. The calendar has students in class 180 days.
  • USD 410 will provide $7,360 of funding to Marion County Parents as Teachers in 2010-11. That is down slightly from 2009-10, based on percentage of county enrollment.
  • Noble met with the board in closed session for 30 minutes to discuss personnel issues. No action was taken on return to open session.
  • Maintenance worker Ralph Janzen resigned, effective June 30. He has worked for the district since 1990, according to district records.
  • The board approved paying $4,570 for FCCLA and Technology Student Association trips to national conferences during the summer. Funding for out-of-state trips is one of the possible budget cuts for the next school year.
  • The board met in closed session for 35 minutes to discuss personnel and 10 minutes to discuss acquisition of property. No action was taken afterward.

Last modified March 10, 2010

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