Archive for Thursday, June 4, 2009

Board makes $1.07 million in cuts

June 4, 2009

Students in De Soto USD 232 will be taking fewer or shorter field trips, open staff positions won’t be filled and more repairs to high-tech equipment will be made in-house in the coming school year as the district grapples with cuts in state aid.

In all, the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education approved $1.07 million in budget reductions at Monday’s meeting. A $1.3 million cut in state aid to the district necessitated the reductions.

Other areas targeted in the reductions include staff travel, administrative and support services and the district’s athletic department.

The biggest cut — $413,526 — will come in staffing. Ken Larsen, director of budget and finance, said Monday’s decision by the board would not force layoffs but rather would be completed through normal attrition. He estimated the number of positions to go unfilled at eight to 10, depending on whether they were teachers or teacher’s aides.

The reductions were first proposed by a Budget Review Stakeholders Committee, comprised of students, teachers, staff, administrators, community members and business owners that met earlier this year. The committee’s final list ranked possible cuts on how they would most likely affect education. The list totaled $4.6 million in cuts.

Larsen said a team of department directors and former Superintendent Sharon Zoellner pared the list to those items that would be least likely to affect students and staff for the upcoming year. Finally, Larsen and Interim Superintendent Ron Wimmer pared the list to the $1.07 million in cuts approved Monday night.

Larsen said before the cuts were approved, the district was anticipating a deficit of $1.17 million for the 2009-2010 school year. The remaining deficit will be offset transferring expenditures from the district’s general fund to its capital outlay fund, he said.

The district will use the remaining items on the list if future reductions are needed. That’s a possibility; last week state revenue officials said tax collections for May were $103million short of expectations. Gov. Mark Parkinson said he likely would trim the $13 billion budget approved for fiscal 2010 to keep the state from running a deficit.

Wimmer said the district was trying to make only the cuts it must make.

“If we get to the point we have to make further reductions, the decisions will get harder,” Wimmer said. “Let’s not impact negatively on the education programs. This gets us within an area we are comfortable with budget-wise.”

The board approved the cuts on a 5-0 vote. Board members Larry Meyer and Randy Johnson were absent.

In other business, the board:

• Discussed the pros and cons of using a 20- or 25-year amortization schedule for remaining bonds, up to $50 million for the De Soto and Mill Valley High school expansions and new elementary.

Larsen said a 20-year amortization would spike the levy 2 mills annually from 2010 to 2013, then would drop annually until the bonds are paid off in 2031. The 25-year amortization would increase the levy by 2 mills annually in 2010 and 2011, then would remain within a 1 mill increase or decrease until the bonds are paid off in 2036.

The average levy on the 20-year amortization is 8.76 mills; the average levy on the 25-year amortization is 7.3 mills, Larsen said.

A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed property valuation.

The board can chose to refinance the bonds after five or 10 years.

• Approved a motion to move forward with the De Soto High School expansion, which is scheduled to open in August 2010. In moving forward with the project, the district chose to take advantage of savings up to an estimated 6 percent in construction costs.

The board directed administrators to come up with a plan for a thorough selection process to choose an architect for the project. The board is expected to take construction management services to bid later in the summer or early fall.

The motion carried 3-2, with Don Clark, Jim Thomas and Jeanine Gracy in favor and Tim Blankenship and Bill Fletcher dissenting.

• Approved, 5-0, purchase of 120 off-lease laptops, totaling $37,800 from Stallard Technologies, Inc..

• Approved the hiring of Joan Robbins as director of special services, beginning July 1.

Robbins comes to the district after serving coordinator of special education in the Blue Valley USD 229 since 2007. She replaces Susan Sipe, who resigned April 24.

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