The million dollar question(s)

Warren County School District begins looking at potential budget adds, cuts

It’s budget time and the school board has millions of dollars of decisions to make.

Warren County School District’s projected revenues are almost $77 million. The projected expenditures are just short of $82 million.

Assuming the budget includes a small percentage of expenditures that won’t be spent, and allowing for a $1.6 million drawdown of the district’s fund balance, the budget is still about $2.5 million in the red.

At Monday night’s special budget meeting, board members and administrators discussed some options.

There are things the administrators would like to see added to the district — teachers, counselors, resource officers, iPads, and others.

And, there are things that it makes sense to cut — teachers, support staff, and rent.

The full list of potential adds totals $1.3 million.

The full list of reductions gets to $6.3 million, but that includes numerous items the administration would not recommend and have not been popular with past boards.

Superintendent Amy Stewart explained that the administration’s first level of staff cuts — nine positions — would not result in furloughs. “These are staff cuts that would align with attrition and align with our student population declining,” she said.

Even those cuts would have repercussions. Reducing the district elementary staff by three would require bumping the maximum number of students in classes in grades three, four, and five to 32. A deeper cut option, which would remove three more positions and provide the district another $255,000 in savings, would increase the maximum number of students in first and second grade classrooms to 32.

Because of the declining enrollment at Beaty-Warren Middle School, the team concept there might have to go. “All the other schools have broken that model,” Stewart said. “We can extract some (savings) there.”

The dean of students position is on both lists.

There is a dean of students at Warren Area Elementary Center. That person handles numerous details that would fall to a building administrator — from supervising in-school suspension to handling some disciplinary and bus referrals and monitoring attendance.

“It’s a crucial position,” Stewart said. “It’s a larger school.”

And the district would like to have more of that kind of support.

But, there are many other things the board needs to continue. So, while a second dean position appears among the third level of possible adds, it is also in the third tier of possible cuts.

Adding money to the district’s virtual academy makes financial sense, Stewart said. “We’re seeing more and more students exercise their choices in terms of how they want to receive their education. If we don’t provide a good product, they’re going to go to the outside.” The district has to pay for outside charter and cyber-charter schooling for county students.

The board asked to see some options for pro-active sports consolidation.

An athletics co-op plan was listed in the administration’s second level of possible cuts. Asked why it wasn’t in the top level, Stewart said, “because it would be politically volatile for you.”

District-wide supervisor of athletics and co-curricular activities Rick Gignac handed the board members a document outlining some possible consolidation plans that would take effect before there was an absolute need.

Far down the cut list are things like going to a four-day school week, going back to half-day kindergarten, and eliminating elementary tutoring.

The board members have been asked to prioritize the adds and cuts by Wednesday so the administration can have the totals set up for next Monday’s special meeting.

The district must adopt a proposed final budget by the end of May and a final budget by the end of June.