Board takes first steps to fight budget shortfalls

Staff writer

Superintendent Ron Traxson prepared Peabody-Burns Board of Education members Monday to make some very tough decisions in the months ahead.

“I hope I’m wrong,” he said. “But I’ve put together a report that shows our possible budget situation for the next three years, and it looks like we’re going to lose around $550,000 over the next three years.”

That number is an estimate based on estimated student enrollment, state funding, special education, and insurance costs.

“That number may still be sugar coated,” he said. “It could be high, it could be low, and all we know for sure is our funding from multiple sources will leave us with a substantial shortfall.”

The district is looking at a $40,000 to $45,000 cost next year due to insurance alone.

“I’m explaining this to you to help you understand the decisions you’ll need to make as a board to help the district,” he said. “Some of the decisions will be very tough.”

After the budget discussion, the board went into executive session with administrators for 41 minutes to discuss administrative contracts. After reentering open session, the board passed a motion to not extend administrative contracts past 2015 to give the board financial flexibility and the ability to negotiate contracts on a yearly basis.

The council spent 56 minutes in executive session to discuss teacher and employee contracts. No action was taken upon returning to open session.

In an effort not to save money, but to allow teachers the time they want to prepare, Traxson presented the board with two school year calendar examples to consider for the next school year.

Once was a five-day school week featuring 162 student days and 178 teacher days, with every month except December featuring a teacher in-service. The other featured a four-day week that would extend the school year three weeks.

“Students would start one week earlier and go one week later,” he said. “There would also be no spring break. Every other Monday would be a mandatory work day for teachers and the students would get Mondays off.”

This year spring break is scheduled in the middle of the allotted time the state has allowed for state testing.

“It’s bad timing but what can you do?” he said. “I want the board to take a look and see what you want to do.”

The council will decide on the new calendar by April.

A four-day week might not be the only thing changing the way students go to school next year. The board approved a request by Traxson to enter into negotiations with Greenbush Online Learning to provide virtual classes to high school students.

“It would only be for people in our district,” he said. “Adults could take classes through it to get their GED. I think there is

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a group that will take advantage of this, if we decide to offer it.”

The approved agreement requires no money or time agreement from the district until students are enrolled. A flat fee of $2,000 per student will be charged, whether they enroll in one or multiple classes through the program.

Students enrolled in the program will count in the schools enrollment count.

“It’s a win-win because we don’t lose money unless the student enrolls, but we get state funding for students who are enrolled,” he said. “I hope it allows the school to get some students from the district we wouldn’t normally get.”

If the student decides they do not like the program after a few weeks, the district is not obligated to pay that student’s fee.

In other business:

  • The board accepted the resignation of secretary Patti Gaines. She has been with the district for 27 years, and her last day will be Sept. 1. The district will advertise for the position in April and interview candidates in May with a hope to have a replacement by June.
  • Several board members were awarded 2012-2013 certificate of achievement for attending last year’s Kansas Association of School Boards convention.
  • A discussion of a possible bond for long-term facility improvements until Thursday because bond counsel was ill.
  • Several Peabody Community Foundation grants were also awarded, $500 was awarded for safe kids camp supplies, $420 for stability balls for the elementary school, $400 for a community track meet, $580 for a mountain bike for Adventure Club, $200 for leadership camp fees for two students, $350 for Teens Against Destructive Activities, and $160 for calculators for the middle school.

 

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