Facing the axe

District deals with cuts up to $325K, possibly more next year


Carbon County School District No. 2 (CCSD 2) held a special meeting Thursday in Saratoga to discuss projected cuts to the district’s budget due to educational cuts made by the state Legislature.

Projecting cuts of approximately $304,000 in state for the 2017-2018 school year, board members heard a presentation by CCSD No.2 superintendent Jim Copeland and business manager Sally Wells, who discussed the results of a survey of teachers and district parents. The survey was intended to gauge stakeholders’ feelings about what should be cut at the schools, and ways the district might restructure funding in the upcoming budget.

Copeland told school board members this year’s cuts come in at an estimated $300,000-325,000 for the 2017-2018 school year, and he has come up with about $400,000 in potential savings for the school board to consider.

But, there may be more work to do next year, he said. Copeland said this year, the board might be able to avoid some hard decisions, in coming years those hard choices might have to be made. It’s possible, he said, there may be another $300,000 in cuts for 2018-2019 and beyond.

“Any cut is painful, any consideration of a freeze in salaries or any consideration of looking at benefits is painful but we have got to start getting this data together and we’ve got to start looking at this because while we might not have to go there this coming year, it looks like we’re going to be in for several years of budget cuts,” Copeland said.

To gauge the feelings of stakeholders such as students, parents and staff at the schools, the school district asked for input from those people, asking their opinions on proposed cuts and where new sources of revenue might be found.

For parents and members of the public in the district, the top four areas for potential savings were reducing electives offered by the district, reducing the number of sports offered, reduction in the number of non-athletic extra-curricular activities and keeping existing athletic teams but reducing activities.

Ideas ranked lower by parents included more closures of school offices and central office, more fundraising activities, increasing activity fees, charging admission for home athletic events and requiring parents and students to pay for all meals.

Among staff members, the top three ideas for savings were reduction in non-athletic extracurricular activities, requiring employees to contribute to health insurance premiums and reducing the number of activities offered. Some other ideas suggested by staff included having larger class sizes, reducing staff travel and merging non-athletic extracurricular activity chapters.

Immediate changes that could be made are not filling jobs about to be vacant due to retirement and resignations, Copeland told the board. Copeland also cited reducing staff by way of not filling jobs that open due to attrition.

Other areas Copeland suggested might be able to be cut immediately are: text book funds; the technology budget; the use of cheaper Chromebooks versus more expensive Apple iPads or dissolution of the table computer program altogether and possibly eliminating district-sponsored disability insurance for employees who would instead be able to purchase policies on the open market through companies like AFLAC.

Copeland warned however that while some areas of savings may seem like “low-hanging fruit” that would be easy to cut for immediate savings, the board should also consider that the state has declared a recalibration of district funding has been ordered three years early.

Under the recalibration, the state can look at current budget levels and make further cuts against those levels. Under such a scheme where the state looks at existing budget levels and suggests cuts from those levels, it is possible for a district to essentially be penalized for making wise financial decisions, he said.

The board also heard from Copeland about possible cuts to the district’s budget courtesy of the Trump Administration, whose budget released last week proposed cutting all federal Title II funding, and massive changes in Title I funding.

Title II funding, broadly, is earmarked for teacher improvement and Title I funding is dedicated to improving poorer school districts. An analysis of the administration’s proposal shows even though Title I funding is technically increasing, most of the money is slated to go toward unspecified “school choice programs,” that likely would benefit charter and private schools.

Copeland warned these funding changes could further muddy the picture for school funding. Trump’s budget is only a suggestion, however. Ultimately, congress must decide what the final budget will look like.

The CCSD No.2 school board did not make any final determinations at the special budget meeting. The budget for the 2017-2018 school year will be prepared by May.


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