School spending plan targets $850,000 deficit with combination of staff reductions, pared benefits, spending cuts
Taking aim at a projected deficit of $850,000 for the 2014-15 year, the Grafton School Board on Monday accepted a preliminary budget that calls for offsetting the shortfall with a combination of staff reductions, spending cuts and pared employee benefits.
In presenting the first draft of a plan prepared by an administrative committee, Supt. Mel Lightner said the district should be able to balance the budget without cutting student programs or raising fees while keeping staff layoffs to a minimum.
Although early projections called for eliminating as many as 11 employees, Lightner said the latest plan calls for cutting the equivalent of 3.6 full-time positions. The layoffs would include a combination of cuts in administrative assistants, library media specialists, high school business education and science teachers and an instructional coach.
Other staff reductions will be achieved through attrition and shifting personnel.
“We’ve tried to avoid layoffs,” Lightner said. “Some of the retirements and resignations we’ve had this spring will help us avoid some of those.”
Business Services Director Kristin Kollath said the projected budget deficit is the result of declining enrollment, losses in state aid and the district’s property-tax base and rising costs.
The staff reductions, Lightner said, would provide more than $739,000 in savings by eliminating salaries and benefits. Another $596,000 in projected cuts include $150,000 by reconfiguring bus routes; $122,000 by reducing cash payments to employees in lieu of insurance; $40,000 by tabling buildings and grounds upgrades; $40,000 by eliminating a special-education aide; and $34,000 by requiring employees to pay 12.6% of their dental insurance premiums.
Offsetting the $1.3 million in spending cuts are $443,479 in new costs. Among those are $180,000 in learning-based compensation for teachers who participate in training programs; $99,523 for new math and science curriculum; $42,000 for a half-time coordinator of the gifted-and-talented program; and $32,000 for computer software to monitor hourly employees.
The budget also calls for bringing German instruction back to John Long Middle School and establishing a Positive Behavorial Intervention and Supports program for students, Lightner said.
The bottom line in the preliminary budget is a net surplus of $47,675. However, Lightner said other costs may be forthcoming, including adding a kindergarten class at Grafton Elementary School.
The budget doesn’t include security upgrades that were discussed this spring, including installing surveillance cameras at the middle school, Lightner noted.
Lightner said he, Kollath and other committee members “worked diligently” for several months to prepare a spending plan based on zero-based budgeting. Raising student fees for extracurricular activities and other programs was considered but rejected, Lightner added.
“This is a student-friendly budget,” he told the board. “I think we hit the nail on the head.”
The presentation received a positive review from board members, who praised the committee’s work.
In accepting the first-draft budget, the board unanimously agreed to the layoff recommendations. That action was required so the district can issue preliminary layoff notices, Lightner said.
Plans call for another budget review at the board’s May 12 meeting, followed by formal approval of preliminary spending plan in June.