Kalispell School Board Discusses Budget Cuts

By Beacon Staff

The Kalispell school board made further recommendations on School District 5’s high school budget reductions for the 2011-2012 year, opting to use more than $300,000 in program retention funds to soften the district’s $700,000 deficit.

While the April 25 meeting was not a final vote on reductions, Superintendent Darlene Schottle said the board’s decisions would provide further guidance on crafting the budget.

The board of trustees had previously requested that the school district put together a worst-case scenario of fiscal reductions and realignment recommendations from the administration.

Based on the board’s direction, the school district’s finance director will put together another draft of the budget, Schottle said.

The latest recommendations were created with input from staff at every district site, the results of a community survey on budget priorities, staffing patterns, retirements and resignations, comparative analysis with other districts and other resources.

District officials told the board members that the Legislature would likely increase funding by 1 percent for the 2011-2012 year, leaving a $700,330 shortfall for the high schools.

With that in mind, the suggested cuts included putting off any of the projects that would have been funded by the failed high school building reserve levy – including a new fire suppression system for Flathead High School – unless there is an emergency.

The recommendations were arranged in tiers of possible savings. Tier one included keeping about $20,000 in non-certified early retirement incentives; $20,000 in salary savings from certified retirements; $50,000 in energy savings; $39,000 in central office reductions and consolidations; $100,000 reduction in activities and athletics; and $10,000 from additional day eliminations.

When considering the cuts in tier one, the trustees agreed to allow the district to create a new budget picture that included $309,000 worth of program retention funds the district had saved.

“I think we need to use it, it doesn’t educate anybody in the bank,” trustee Brad Eldredge said.

The board asked the superintendent to put about $50,000 back into the athletics and activities reduction, bringing the total cuts to $50,000.

Board members also agreed with the administration’s suggestions for the second tier of cuts, which included the reduction of two supervisors, one site career counselor, two tutors and three special education paraprofessionals.

The reductions would be through attrition and not by laying off staff, the administration noted.

The board asked Schottle to see where $32,000 in program retention funds would best fit in tier two for the next draft of the budget.

Tier three, which the board did not use for cuts, included laying off staff and reducing a high school administrative position. Multiple teachers spoke against removing a school administrator, saying that the administration makes their jobs possible.

The final budget will be completed in July, Schottle said.

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