Art teachers, technology purchases, and a special bus run to ease kindergartners into a full day of school were among $230,000 in budget reductions recommended by Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Collins on Monday, April 8.
The Board of Education needs $230,000 in cuts to meet the finance board’s reduction to the $98 million budget school request for 2019-20. Board members heard Collins’ recommendations, and discussed them, added some ideas of their own, and set decision making for their meeting Monday, April 22.
“This was a collective effort,” Dr. Collins said of the cut list. “This was about a search to keep this away from the classroom.”
The discussion followed public comments in which representatives of both the PTAs and the teachers union urged the board to keep budget cuts “as far away from the classroom as possible.”
Board member Frances Walton felt that amounted to an impossible task.
“Everything affects the classroom,” she said. “When we get cut, it’s going to affect the classroom one way or the other.”
Some board members worried they’d have to find another $100,000 in cuts to cover Collins’ decision to maintain consultants from the Center for Children with Special Needs next year while also adding in-house special education staff that will eventually replace them. But Collins told the board this could be done by transfers of special education funds, without cutting elsewhere.
“We believe we can achieve that $100,000 within the special education budget,” Collins said.
The $230,000 cut list would cover the finance board’s reduction of the proposed 2019-20 school budget from $98,423,760, a 3.60 percent increase, to $98,193,760, a 3.36 percent increase.
Collins’ recommended cuts were:
- $109,000 could be found by reducing elementary school art teachers, as had previously been proposed by the administration but was later reversed by the board after objections from the community.
- $50,000 could be saved through a “buy-ahead” program to that would make purchases in next year’s budget with money remaining in this year’s allocation before the fiscal year ends June 30.
- $36,000 could be reduced from next year’s technology budget, either with a similar approach of using money from this year, or through “deferrals” — putting the purchases off.
- $13,510 could be saved by pushing back the hiring date for the STEM supervisor envisioned as next year’s leader of curriculum and instructional improvement in learning related to science, technology, engineering and math. The position, with a salary of $162,120 a year, would still be added, but a month later — starting Aug. 1 rather than July 1 — drawing pay for only 11 months in the 2019-20 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.
- $16,000 would be saved through reductions to the “per school” discretionary spending allocations — again, with a potential for some of the needed supplies and equipment to be purchased with money from this year’s budget.
- $5,490 could be found by eliminating a midday bus run that takes kindergartners home after half a day for the first two weeks of school. Having half-days for the first two weeks is a program that dates back to the district’s transition from half-day to full-day kindergarten, and is no longer viewed as necessary, Dr. Collins said. Parents who want their kindergartners in school only a half day to start the year could pick their children up, he said.