by Jack Minor
The crowd was down at the final community engagement meeting conducted by the school board this school year, but there was no shortage of opinions as they discussed advertising and program cuts.
The District is still facing approximately 6.8 million in budget cuts from the previous year. There is still uncertainty regarding the amount of funding to be provided by the state legislature, but many believe the final amount of cuts will not be as substantive as predictions. Currently the district receives 76 percent of its budget from state funds.
The group of around 15 residents were asked to discuss recommendations made by the Budget Advisory Committee. Their suggestions included:
- Committing some of the undesignated reserve funds to the general fund
- Reducing capital projects for at least one year
- Negotiating employee benefits to benefits packages.
- Reducing administrative costs at both the administration building and schools
- Across the board salary reduction
- Take at least 4 district-wide furlough days
Board member Julia Richard, who shared a table with director Brett Reese and vice president Robert Stack said regarding transferring money from the “rainy day” fund “the question we need to ask ourselves is, is it raining?” Most at the table agreed that it was.
Misty Miller, who has children who attend Scott Elementary said, “the downside is once it’s gone, it’s gone, but it doesn’t do any good to sit on it forever.”
Participants seemed to all agree that one step that needed to be taken was asking employees to help contribute to their health insurance. Roger Feidler explained that currently district employees do not pay for their personal health insurance, but only pay if they choose to add family members to their plan.
Parents appeared united that they would rather see furlough days than pay cuts. Miller said “If I was a teacher, I would rather have a day off than a pay cut. This way I can actually do something with the time off.”
Concerns over the furlough days were that students would loose face time with their teachers. It was suggested that the days be strategically placed such as the first and last day of school to have a minimal impact.
Nicolette Peerman, an 8th grader at Franklin and friend of Brett Reese was asked her thoughts regarding advertising in the schools and cutting sports. Peerman said students felt that advertising in the schools would be distracting to them while attempting to learn. Reese, who owns a radio station said he understood that sentiment and that “ads are purposely designed to be distracting and companies placing them feel the more distracting, the better. As I’ve explained to my board colleagues before to no avail, there are several good reasons we should have nothing to do with this idea.” Reese claims the city can’t even sell ads on their buses and the district shouldn’t expect better luck.
Miller said she felt that sports and music programs should be self-supporting and discussed the possibility of parents paying for bus service. It was pointed out there is no state law requiring the district to provide transportation.
Marlene Schuman, a former board member also expressed concern over transportation costs. She recommended having single pick up and drop off points rather than going to individual stops. said “we don’t rely on our parents enough. Our parents in this district are good parents. I don’t know of any parents who says ‘I don’t want to get my kids to school.’ Kids will always find a way to get to school.”
Miller said “I would happily pay for special ed bus service rather than to lose it. I think many parents feel the same way.”
Peerman expressed concern over cuts to sports saying that for many of her friends that interest is what keeps them in school. She also expressed concerns over the number of tests and assessments they had to take saying they were actually preventing students from learning.