Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

February 21, 2012

Centerville School District looks at ways to cut costs as budget process begins

By Krystal Fowler - Lifestyle editor
Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — A large portion of the Monday, Feb. 13 school board meeting was taken up with preliminary budget talks and looking at ways the school system might be able to lower expenses.

The cost saving options presented to the board by the administrators included the possibility of closing Cincinnati and Mystic Elementary schools as well as the elimination of around 30 employment positions.

According to superintendent Tony Ryan, the administrative team has met several times in the past two months to discuss cost saving options and began with looking at what the school system needs to offer to be accredited. They then looked at class sizes for each grade and Title I, special education and at risk budgets. At the high school level, they looked at how many sections of each class are offered. They also looked at how the buildings are currently being used, how space could be better used and how the Iowa Core, curriculum and staff development are being implemented.

Ryan then presented a list of possible cuts the administrative team thought the school district could handle based on class size and what Ryan described as "right sizing" the district.

"Right sizing our district would mean having the right amount of staff for the student enrollment we have," said Ryan.

But Ryan emphasized that the board and community should decide what the "right size" of the district should be, based on what they want to offer to students.

The list of possible cost saving cuts included the possibility of closing Cincinnati and Mystic Elementary schools and the loss of approximately 30 positions district wide. The positions include teachers, as well as assistants, tutors, support staff and other personnel from across the district.

Ryan stressed that the list was not a recommendation of what administrators thought should be cut, but what the district could possibly be able to handle based on projected enrollment. Any final decisions about cost saving cuts would be up to the board after more public input is gathered.

"This is not a recommendation by any means," said Ryan. "We're giving you some data of what we can do. It's not a plan. It's not an arm twisting." 

Board members asked questions about what possibly cutting positions could mean for class sizes and also how difficult it could be for a high school student to achieve honors diploma's when the amount of classes offered might be cut.

"If we're going to make changes in what we offer, do we have to make changes in what we expect from our students?" board member Marty Braster asked.

"Granted, you start taking away sections of a certain class offering, it's going to be a little more difficult to arrange class schedules," said Ryan. "It's going to take some forward thinking and planning from the students and the parents." 

The board decided to continue to look into possible cost saving cuts more and voted to set up a series of public input meetings to get responses from the community about the possible cuts before they discussed them any further.

There will be a public input meeting in Cincinnati on Thursday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. There will be a public input meeting in Centerville on Monday, March 5 at 6 p.m. and there will be a public input meeting in Mystic on Tuesday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m.

The board also voted to hold a public hearing on the Instructional Support Levy on Thursday, Feb, 23 at 6:30 p.m. and to hold a work session Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. They then scheduled a second work session for Monday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. when the regular board meeting would normally be held and moved the regular meeting to Tuesday, March 13 at 7 p.m. They also scheduled the budget hearing for Monday, April 9 at 6:30 p.m. This will also be the board's regular monthly meeting as well as their annual meeting.

The school board also voted to offer a trimmed down early retirement package this year. Staff members have until March 31 to announce their retirement. They have to be at least 55 years old and to have worked for the school system for at least 10 consecutive years. They will receive a one time $5,000 payment for taking early retirement.

In other business:

The board voted to accept the retirement of Marilyn Foster and to give her the early retirement benefit. They also accepted the resignation of Janet Steven as eighth grade girls basketball coach. They approved the employment of Lauren Jones as assistant girls track coach and of Stephanie Banks as a substitute secretary at Centerville High School.

The board accepted the high bids on three vehicles. The accepted a bid of $1,531 from Stewart Everman for a 1998 school bus and a bid of $1,631 from Everman for a 1994 school bus. They also accepted an offer of $731.56 from Wallace Carter for a 2000 Ford Taurus.

The board reviewed and accepted the 2010-2011 district audit, but did ask for clarification about the recommendation that the school issue W2 forms to students who receive scholarships from the school district. Business manager Rob Busch said he would ask the auditors for more clarification.

The board voted to allow the same number of seasonal summer positions to be offered in 2012 as had been allowed in 2011.

The board also voted to allow Centerville Schools to move forward in the process of applying for a grant to help build a safe room. According to Busch, the room has to be something that can be used as a shelter, but schools have used the grants to help with building such things as gyms, auditoriums or weight rooms. The board approved adopting the Appanoose County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan as the first step in the process.

The board approved the budget guarantee resolution, which allows the district to levy for the shortfall of funds due to declining enrollment.

The board approved athletic sharing agreements with Moulton-Udell and Ottumwa. The district will share boys and girls soccer, tennis, track, cross country and golf with Moulton-Udell and swimming with Ottumwa.

The district's five-year copy machine lease with Xerox was up and the board approved a new lease. They also approved a new anti-virus contract for the district with Providence Capital Network. The district will receive anti-virus protection as well as an internet filter for four years for a cost of $18,070.39.

The board had their first reading of the policy primer for Debt Compliance Regulations from the Iowa Association of School Boards. They also okayed the final payment for the door and window replacement project. The final payment of $15,343.50 was made to Zephyr Aluminum Products.

The board's annual membership in the Appanoose Economic Development Corporation was renewed for $250. The board then heard more about the administrative team's instructional rounds to classrooms before approving sport's officials contracts and hearing reports from the administrative team and approving financial reports.