No ‘final answer’ yet |

No ‘final answer’ yet

School district releases new draft of budget reductions

After weeks of receiving feedback from parents, staff and community members, Moffat County School District officials presented an updated budget reduction template at a work session Monday night.

District finance director Mark Rydberg went over the new template line by line, highlighting new reductions and where previously proposed reductions were left out.

Because of a decrease in state funding, the district is looking to cut about $1.7 million from its $19 million budget.

A balanced budget will be finalized in June, however district officials hope the difficult process is as collaborative as possible, superintendent Joe Petrone said.

“It’s one of those difficult situations you find yourself in as superintendent and as a community,” he said. “We’re all cheerleading and supporting these kids, so any of this conversation is difficult. We know how important it is to do everything we can to get it right.”

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After the first round of discussions and feedback in March, there have been some changes to possible reductions.

The possibility of charging tuition for all-day kindergarten, which offered potential savings of $180,000, has been taken off the table.

The closing of the Moffat County High School pool is also no longer an option for fiscal year 2010-11. Rydberg said both issues will be reassessed in upcoming budget years.

Many of the remaining items are similar to the first draft of budget reductions, but some ambiguities have been cleared up.

What was formerly called a “redesign” of intervention programs now has been defined to mean a reduction of the equivalent of six full-time paraprofessionals across the district. Reducing intervention aides and not using substitutes when an aide is absent from work could save the district about $113,000.

The two largest dollar amounts on the budget reduction template also affect staff.

A 2-percent pay reduction for licensed staff could save an estimated $170,000, according to the budget reduction template.

The 2-percent pay cut would also affect Rydberg, Petrone and assistant superintendent Christine Villard, as well as principals and central office staff.

Another large budget item is staff health insurance. Last week, the Moffat County School Board approved a recommendation by the insurance committee to switch providers, which Rydberg said could save $150,000.

The budget reduction template also reflects $150,000 in savings by changing premiums it currently pays for employees’ dependents.

Currently, employees’ premiums are paid in full. Employees pay for their first dependent, and the district covers every dependent after that.

On the new reduction template, district officials are proposing no longer paying for anyone past the employee.

If that change were to take place, 36 employees would be affected, and it would save about $150,000.

JoAnn Baxter, School Board president and a former teacher, said every item on the list of possible budget reductions will be a difficult decision to make, especially those involving the district staff of about 300.

“I’ve known all along we were going to have to make some tough decisions, especially as it applies to our staff,” Baxter said. “When it’s 85 percent of the budget, you have to take a long hard look at that. You have to be as even handed as you can.”

Still, there is a bright spot that many other districts across the state do not have, Baxter said.

“We’re not cutting any teaching jobs,” she said. “But that comes at some expense. We’ve got to find the money some place.”

District staff will not be the only ones affected by the $1.7 million reduction.

The template includes cuts in high school extracurricular programs, including sports, amounting to $50,000.

The elimination of the high school’s summer remedial program could save $15,000, and the district hopes to jump start an energy conservation campaign that could save $20,000.

Still, Petrone said nothing is set in stone, and the district will continue to collaborate with parents, staff and the community.

“I know everyone is out there waiting for a final answer,” Petrone said. “Ambiguity is a hard thing to live with. Last week was great, and we had so many parents come and ask questions. We’re going to see how close we can get and most of all try to preserve what’s best for our kids.”

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