On Wednesday, March 12, the Johnston Board of Education got a first look at potential budget cuts effective for the 2014-15 school year.
With a $1.2 million deficit in the general fund, district administrators have been brainstorming ideas for cost-saving since early 2013. The general fund pays for operating expenses: 82 percent of it goes toward salary and benefits and the remainder is spent on curriculum, utilities, gas, etc. Superintendent Clay Guthmiller spoke to the proposed reductions and why they are areas of consideration.
“When you look at what takes up the bulk of the deficit, it’s salary and benefits,” Guthmiller said. “So, when we look at areas to trim, we’re going to use early retirements and resignations to the best of our ability. We’re going to look at staffing for the students we have in the classroom and equalizing the teaching load across all schools. We’re considering all that we can without impacting educational programs for students.”
During the budget presentation, Jan Miller-Hook, executive director of business and finance for Johnston, pointed out why other funds can’t cover this deficit.
“It’s easy to think ‘The school just got all this money through a bond – why are they in a deficit?’ but there are many different funds we operate from,” Miller-Hook said. “We have the activity fund, PPEL levy, capital projects, sales tax, nutrition – and many more. So when we look at areas for reduction, the list gets specific to the type of fund it pulls from.”
Miller-Hook also emphasized the importance state funding plays in a school’s annual budget. Each district gets a certain dollar amount per pupil, which is set by the state on an annual basis. Decreases in student funding year over year, combined with slower growth rates than years previous have had a big hand in creating the deficit. Miller-Hook and Guthmiller said that deficit operation had to be resolved for the upcoming school year.
The board saw a line-item budget reduction list of 21 things, plus an additional five items that could also be considered. At this time, the 14 personnel reductions are covered by planned early retirements, attrition, and/or resignations.
This line-item budget is still in the draft process and no decisions have been made to cut or keep any items listed. View the draft list here.
Board members and administrators will be accepting feedback through March 31, 2014. On the 31st, the board will meet in a special session to vote on the budget reductions. Patrons can submit feedback through this online form.
“It’s important to realize that this is just a draft and we’re open to hearing suggestions for other ways to reduce the budget,” Guthmiller said.