Summit Schools budget cuts come into focus
summit daily news
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit School Board narrowed its list of proposed budget cuts Wednesday, steering clear of major staff reductions and big hits to athletics.
The board met in a work session to review staff recommendations and community input in the effort to trim about $809,000 from next year’s education expenses. The board developed a draft list of reductions, adhering closely to a list developed by the schools’ principals and other district administrators.
Included on the list is a staff salary freeze. Scheduled salary increases, based on seniority and advanced education, would have totaled more than $300,000 in new costs for the district next year.
District staff have averted some of the more drastic scenarios, including a proposed staffing cut of 6 percent across all schools and departments. Still up for discussion are staffing cuts of 3.3 percent, including administrative positions. Should those reductions become a reality, the district hopes to achieve them through attrition.
Athletics at the high school and middle school didn’t wind up with worst-case scenarios, either. Some preliminary budget-reduction proposals included elimination of up to six sports teams at the high school, which would have cut the athletics and activities expenses at the school by 15 percent. Instead, the board favored a 5 percent cut, which could result in the loss of one or two sports. Top on the list is boys’ swimming and diving, where low participation has put the team’s viability into question. An athletics committee convened by the board also suggested eliminating girls’ tennis in the 5 percent scenario, but the idea did not receive strong support from the board. Instead, the board asked the committee to re-examine the issue and seek ways to reduce costs among all sports before eliminating entire programs. The committee will meet again and offer a recommendation to the board at its April 27 meeting.
Major changes to the schedules at the middle school and high school were put on hold for a year, with the board reasoning that such a change would require more time for research, planning and thought than is available before the 2010-2011 school year. An overhaul to the high school schedule could create savings by reducing the number of required staff.
The board agreed the district should not dip into its reserve “rainy day” funds next year to cope with declining revenues, since state economic forecasts anticipate cuts will have to go even deeper the following year.
“I don’t think it’s raining hard enough yet,” School Board Treasurer Brad Piehl said.
In brighter news, the state Legislature is considering an amendment to the school finance act that may allow some school districts, including Summit, to put off some cuts until the 2011-2012 school year. Summit School District anticipates having to reduce its expenses by about $1.4 over the next two years, but the amendment offers more flexibility in when the cuts happen.
If the amendment passes, local schools would have the option of reducing next year’s expenses by $543,000 instead of $809,000.
Board members were undecided on whether to exercise that option, but they felt that the proposed 3.3 percent staff cuts could go by the wayside.
Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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