M-P Board starts budget cut list

By Mary Zielinski (free-lance)
Posted 4/29/99

Faced with finding at least $189,000 more than it has for fiscal 1999-2000, the Mid-Prairie Board of Education Monday indicated it leans to a mix of across the board cuts combined with specific ones. …

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M-P Board starts budget cut list

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Faced with finding at least $189,000 more than it has for fiscal 1999-2000, the Mid-Prairie Board of Education Monday indicated it leans to a mix of across the board cuts combined with specific ones. The move is, as noted board member Ed Whetstone, “to save all the staff we can.”

Earlier, when it became apparent budget cuts were needed, building administrators put together 2% across the board cuts for each building. However, at the last board meeting, April 12, possible specific cuts were outlined.

Since then board members and Superintendent Gordon Cook have received numerous calls, letters and e-mail about possible cuts in all areas. Possible cuts in the kindergarten program drew the greatest concern Monday with several parents voicing opposition to a plan that would reduce kindergarten to three sections (one for each elementary school) with a possible 25 students in each.

Lengthy discussion ensued about the kindergarten program, including, at one point, resumption of the plan to have all-day, every-day kindergarten. There was equal discussion about possible cuts in transportation, specifically the cutting of at least two bus routes.

Cook stressed that it will involve personnel, not “parts and equipment,” a response to Pat Curl’s concern about bus maintenance.

As for across the board cuts, the principals said they were prepared to do it for a year, using that time to devise a better plan.

At the start of the meeting Monday, Board President Tracy Anderson said the session was to discuss cuts and to put possible items on a list for further consideration.

He added he expected “there will be too many items to cover tonight and it (the cuts) will not be done tonight.” In fact, he opened the meeting, saying “we will come back to it (cuts) as many times as it takes to do it right.”

Anderson set a 10 p.m. definite adjournment time because “we will quit while we are still sensible.”

At present, the Mid-Prairie district will have only $28,827 available to it in new money. Most of the $189,000 (down from $195,000 by saving $6,000 by delaying NCA visitation) is to cover additional salary and benefits for all employees (support staff and faculty). Negotiations have not yet been concluded.

Possible cuts, besides the kindergarten and bus routes, involve limiting field trips to a total $9,000 for the district; reducing staff overtime, reviewing and/or eliminating the maintenance director position, reducing maintenance costs through a variety of steps, eliminating one custodian position, reducing assistant coaches, increasing book rent and student fees, limiting costs for professional development for staff paid by the district, eliminating the mail route and evening shuttle bus, having Cook drive his personal car to the office, using the school one after that; using more electronic communications and less paper, reducing aides at the high school and Kalona elementary.

A suggestion to eliminate one elementary principal met with objections from residents and the board and will not be considered.

The defeat of an Instructional Support Levy vote in March by a near two to one margin cut away a hoped-for source of funds needed to rebuild the district’s greatly depleted reserves.

Consequently, in a related move Monday, the board approved a communications plan, in cooperation with the Grant Wood Area Education Agency, geared to a third try at passing the levy.

If the measure had passed, it was expected to provide approximately $467,000 annually.

In other business, the board:

•accepted the resignation of Norma Wright, teacher at Kalona Elementary School where she has taught for 30 years.

•hired Elsa Schmidt as the high school Voc Ag teacher with a contract from July 1 to June 30.

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