School board scrutinizes budgets and salaries

28

Last week’s governing board meeting focused on the budget, a budget revision and an over expenditure resolution. Salaries and contracts for next year also came under discussion by board members, staff and the business department.

In 2005-2006 the district overspent its unrestricted capital budget by $372,038. State law requires that the funds be paid back to the state without penalty if done over a two-year period.

The funds were originally to be paid out of builder donation funds, however, according to the staff report from Administrator of Business Services Mark Busch, “I am told . . .that when the prior superintendent put those funds aside in case they were needed to support possible city transportation fees, they were no longer available.”

Growth in the student population, which necessitated building new schools, was responsible for the over expenditure of funds. Busch’s suggestion to decrease the amount by a minimum payment of $10,000 this year and decreasing next year’s budget by the remaining $362,038 was approved by the board after some discussion.

State law requires that budgets be revised if amounts change by more than $1,000. The district student average daily membership (ADM) has increased another 118 students from day 40 to day 100. This will provide additional funding from the state although the exact amount has not yet been released. Funding may be reduced due to a district absentee rate above the 5.6 percent baseline.

Student growth has driven the budget changes. On the 100th day last fiscal year (2005-2006) the district had 2,423 students; the estimate for this year was 4,111 students. The actual current enrollment is 4,560.

“Growth has slowed but hasn’t stopped,” Busch told the board members. A $926,895 increase in the current budget reflects the addition of staff in regular education classes but mostly capital expenses. The district is looking at hiring 62 additional teachers for the next school year due to the increased number of students at the middle school and high school, as well as normal attrition.

Discussion on next year’s budget and the 2006-2007 budget revision was held over to a special board meeting Friday. “I wouldn’t want to proceed unless our board president, as a CPA, was present,” explained board member Tim White.

Staff salaries will be a major part of the budget planning. Middle school teacher Marie Bialorucki reminded the board that the last increase to the salary base was three years ago.

“We want our students to aim high,” said Bialorucki. “I don’t want to reach the point where I’m just a babysitter. I want to be respected as a teacher.”

Busch interjected, “There is a finite amount for funds next year. He mentioned the need for additional staff, adding, “Classified hasn’t had a base increase for longer than certified staff members.”

“We have to pay people if we want to keep them here,” said White. “I think it’s high time we as a board get off the toilet and get teachers for these classrooms. I don’t care if we have to go into debt.”

Questioning why there isn’t money and why there isn’t enough staff, White stated, “I don’t think the numbers are coming together right. I want accountability.” He asked for an independent audit through the Auditor General. Busch replied that an independent audit, approved by the Auditor General, had been done already and reported to the board.

Superintendent Dr. John Flores suggested the use of discretionary funds to increase base salaries. Those funds provide amenities such as carpeting in classrooms. Board member Shannon Amos said, “I think teachers would deal with those problems not to have 38 in a class.”

Questions regarding the 21st Century After School Program’s staff contracts, whether they should be for one or two months, also arose. “There’s way too much miscommunication. You need to start talking and declaring intentions,” Amos told the after school staff and the administration.

The district leadership team is prioritizing staffing needs, given funds available, and the salary advisory committee is discussing various options. Recommendations for staffing and salaries will come to the board at its next meeting.

.