Mid-Prairie District faces nearly $200,000 total in budget cuts

By Mary Zielinski
Posted 4/15/99

Faced with the need to cut $44,000 more than the originally estimated $151,000 from the Mid-Prairie School District’s fiscal 1999-2000 budget, Superintendent Gordon Cook Monday unveiled a plan of …

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Mid-Prairie District faces nearly $200,000 total in budget cuts


Faced with the need to cut $44,000 more than the originally estimated $151,000 from the Mid-Prairie School District’s fiscal 1999-2000 budget, Superintendent Gordon Cook Monday unveiled a plan of selective cuts that will eliminate full and part-time positions, limit field trips and remove a bus route, mail route, overtime and out-of-state travel.

If all cuts take place, including increases in student fees, the district will save a total of $207,656 or $12,656 more than the figure believed to be absolutely needed. The additional funds would be earmarked to help rebuild the district’s greatly depleted reserves.

Under the plan detailed Monday, the two largest cuts would be an elementary teaching position ($27,000), done by reducing kindergarten from five to three sections and reducing regular elementary education aide positions ($37,634). The latter would be at Kalona Elementary. An additional $7,793 would be gained by cutting the office aide at the high school and having no sub pay for library secretaries and aides.

The elimination of a custodian between Wellman Elementary School and the high school and eliminating high school sub custodian and overtime for maintenance of the terrazzo floor in the new high school addition would gain another $10,152.

Cook’s outlining of possible cuts came after board member Elizabeth Curl suggested tabling the matter since the board had just received the report. In fact, Cook noted that the report was completed at 6:44 p.m., some 45 minutes prior to the start of the meeting at 7:30 p.m.

However, Board Vice-President Jack Dillon (conducting the meeting in the absence of President Tracy Anderson) said, “I think we need to go ahead with as many people as there are here,” referring to the more than 60 residents at the meeting.

Special meeting

Cook agreed, but told the board that it should set a special meeting later this month to take action on budget cuts. Later, the board did, setting 7:30 p.m., April 26 to decide about the cuts.

However, before he “walked through” the possible cuts, Cook said that he did not discuss cuts at the last meeting because “I was told not to bring a report to that meeting. It was set up to listen,” reiterating that “I did not give a report because I was told not to.”

He said that he also has talked with the board, principals and patrons “in order to have crafted the plan before you.”

He stressed that they are “selective cuts, not across the board ones,” and that the plan was not unanimous, “there were disagreements about the way to go and there are things that various people don’t like.”

One of the reasons for the upward revisions, adding $44,000 in cuts, is how negotiations are going with support and certified staff, Cook indicated.

Cook also noted that reducing travel to meetings for principals is reducing contract provisions. There also are suggestions to limit teaching staff professional leave (limiting expenditure to $6,000 and managed at the building level), limiting field trips (expenditure $9,000, managed at building level) and reducing extended contracts.

High School Counselor Don Randol noted that that reduction would virtually eliminate the summer visit program he has.

It also led Curl to ask how that would affect the vocational ag program, where an extended contract is commonplace.

Cook said that Mid-Prairie is interviewing candidates for the post (to be vacated by Neil Knobloch) and that the extended hours will be “negotiated.”

He stressed that “there is a limited number of ag ed teachers and if we are to secure one, we need to bargain.”

Cook also stressed that continued declining enrollments also will continue to affect the district, that there will be little, if any increase, in allowable growth from the state.

“We need a growing student body,” he said.

Despite the large attendance, few addressed the board except to discuss the kindergarten issues, citing research that shows the smaller the kindergarten class, the better it is for the students.

Other possible cuts will be no support staff overtime; eliminating the mail route and evening shuttle bus, eliminating a bus route and eliminating additional bus routes to the Kalona mobile home court; reducing the number of assistant coaches and reducing equipment and maintenance costs.

In a related matter, the board approved the earlier recommendation to reduce overtime staff hours. However, it did restore the hours for one bus driver.

The board also received a lengthy report from Jim Adam, maintenance director, detailing what the position involves and addressing the questions of the $30 light bulb change. Adam reported that initially it was believed there was no power running to the switch and on that basis, the electrical subcontractor was called. The incident occurred during construction at the middle school.

He also explained about having Home Gas called to winterize the softball facility, explaining that more was involved than simply putting anti-freeze into the fixtures, that water had to be turned off at the curb and supply lines disassembled prior to putting in antifreeze.

His eight-page report covered numerous items, noting that at least $6,164 were saved through his efforts.

In other business, the board:

•received a reading assessment report from Principal Mark Schneider, outlining the district’s approach to a reading folder that would follow a student from kindergarten-middle school.

•received a recommendation that both the business manager and superintendent agreed, in light of the district’s financial problems, that neither have any increase in salary. Curl said that board policy dictates that the superintendent’s salary cannot be set until all evaluation is completed.

•held a budget hearing and approved the fiscal 1999-2000 budget of approximately $8.6 million.

•authorized the business manager to seek bids for the district’s annual audits. Bids will be for 2000-2001, 2001-2002 and 2002-2003.

•received a proposal from Kay Graber of Grant Wood AEA, about ways to evaluate needs and improve communication between the district and its patrons. The plan would involve services (at no charge) from the AEA.