Written by Rick Karas, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 17 April 2014 08:20
The Garden City Board of Education will prepare to adopt next year’s school budget in a couple of weeks. Before they do, they’ll have to go over a few changes.
At the board’s public work session held at the high school on Wednesday, April 9, school superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen recommended a few adjustments, part of the annual balancing act that is the school budget.
“We have the needs of our students, and the desire of the board representing the community to provide them with the most comprehensive, the richest programs possible,” Feirsen said.
“On the other hand, we have to balance that with the understanding that resources are limited.”
Feirsen was referring to the maximum allowable tax levy of 1.57 percent. A budget at or below the levy will require a simple majority to pass (50 percent of the vote +1). Or, a budget requiring a levy above the limit can be proposed, which would require a board resolution and a super majority (60 percent voter approval).
Working right at that limit, a $109.4 million budget has been proposed, up over $1.8 million from last year.
Dr. Feirsen is proposing adjustments because property tax increases are severely constrained by the tax levy cap, and because the district receives relatively little in federal ‘Title’ money, which is based on demographics, i.e. community wealth.
On the flip side there has been a slight increase in state aid to the district.
The recommended adjustments include staff reductions, largely due to enrollment decreases and the rise in maximum class-size in grades 2-5.
There would be a net reduction of 10.5 full-time equivalent staff (FTE). There would also be FTE reductions in library media and school nurse staff.
In the latter, there would be a .25 FTE reduction of a part-time nurse in each elementary school.
Resident Margie Rydzewski has issue with that reduction. Her daughter has juvenile diabetes and is currently a high school sophomore. She has another child currently attending Stewart. She believes even a slight reduction in the nursing staff could be an issue.
“I feel that any decrease is a danger to the safety of the children, and this mistake could affect the health, safety and ultimately the lives of our most precious asset, our children,” Rydzewski said.
Feirsen says he feels the nursing adjustment is appropriate given the low enrollment in the elementary schools. Also, a .5 ‘flex’ nurse is being added, to split time between Stewart and Stratford. That staffer would assist with routine duties, allowing the full-timer to tend to more pressing matters.
Feirsen admits it’s an imperfect solution, but says the board is in a no-win situation: either cut services, or try to override the tax cap, which would appear to deprive residents of tax relief, possibly leading to the budget being voted down.
“I can’t say this strong enough—there is no additional money... people think, in a $109 million budget, you’ve got to be able to find an extra $20,000 here or there,” he said. “It is not available, we have struck this budget to the greatest extent possible.”
The next key date will be Wednesday, April 23 at the high school, where the board will vote whether to adopt the budget. A public hearing will be held on May 13, with the vote occurring on May 20.