District looking at adds, cuts

The Warren County School District is heading into budget season full steam ahead.

With a special budget work session set for 7 p.m. Monday, April 23, administrators introduced a list of possible adds and cuts for next year at Monday’s board meeting.

The district is projecting revenues of about $5.1 million less than expenditures. Even accounting for a projected drawdown of the fund balance by $1.6 million, the board will have to find a way to recoup $3.5 million according to the working budget draft from February.

The adds list is a combination of things the district needs and things the board and administration would like.

The addition of Spanish to the middle school curriculum will mean the district will need another Spanish teacher to support educational reform. Adding a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) lab at Warren Area Elementary Center, which was approved on Monday, will require adding “a half-time teacher,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said.

“If money were no object, we would be asking for another dean of students,” Stewart said.

The student resource officer (SRO) program is popular and there have been requests for ore SROs, she said.

Requests for more iPads “we’ve heard loud and clear.”

The list of possible cuts is much longer.

“We are proposing that we would be able to do support staff reductions of one or two FTEs (full-time equivalent teachers),” Stewart said. “We would look at a reduction in tutoring as the first layer.”

“I’d like to see years where we’ve cut tutors to see what that’s done to our scores,” Board Member Paul Mangione said. “What we need to do is allocate our resources properly.”

“We have two elementary options,” Stewart said. “We could take grades three, four, and five up to (a maximum of) 32 students in a class.”

Option 2 for elementary “would include option 1 and then layer in grade 2 in taking those grade levels up to 32,” she said.

The dean of students appears on both sides.

Exactly how much adding or eliminating a staff position would save the district is difficult in advance. “Sometimes when we add a staff member and we cut a staff member, there is no amount that I can give you,” Stewart said. The cost or savings in the list is based on a teacher at the average step on the scale and who signs up for family medical — about $85,000 a year in salary and benefits.

She said the administration works to align cuts to retirements to avoid the need for furloughs.

If the district were to “eliminate academic competitions and PMEA events,” it would save about $40,000, Stewart said.

Going back to half-day kindergarten would net the district seven FTEs of savings.

The two proposed options for athletics are flat funding and a further reduction of $35,000.

Further, creating new cooperative agreements in sports would also cut costs.

“I would hate to see an elimination of academic competitions without seeing (corresponding cuts to) the athletic competitions,” Board President Donna Zariczny said.

“There are booster groups for athletics and band,” Mangione said. “Are there any academic booster groups? Do we need some? Put those groups on notice, they need to step up.”

The savings the district could realize by going to a four-day school week are not what they would have been when the idea was first proposed almost 10 years ago, Stewart said.

“The cost savings that were there in 2010 just aren’t there today,” she said. “The savings on a four-day school week come from transportation and heating.”

The idea has not been popular in the past and the lowered return means the administrators “are not going to put a whole lot of work into that” unless the board would like to take a closer look, Stewart said.

“All the cuts focus on athletics, staffing, education, all this stuff that’s important to students,” Board Member Joe Colosimo said. “I realize that any master facility plan change is a multi-year (exercise). I don’t see any recommended cuts or cost savings to bricks and mortar. At some point, I’d like to have options that aren’t educational options.”

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