Posted Online: Feb. 05, 2013, 7:26 pm
Sherrard discusses ways to cut school year budget
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By Cathy Decker, firstname.lastname@example.org
SHERRARD -- Fewer extracurricular activities, larger class sizes and sharing employees with other districts were among the suggestions that surfaced on Monday at a special meeting of the Sherrard School Board to discuss possible budget cuts.
About 75 people showed up for the public forum to hear reasons for the financial problems the district faces, and to discuss what might be done to solve them.
Board president Dr. Timothy Arbet and Superintendent Rebecca Rodocker said they've worked for several months to find ways to cut the 2013-14 school year budget.
Ms. Rodocker has analyzed different scenarios for saving from $300,000 to $600,000 or more annually, with the board set to make some decisions at its February or March regular board meetings.
"Three years ago we did a very similar process," Dr. Arbet said. At that time, the district slashed its budget by about $1.2 million, with no cuts eliminating programs that benefit students. "Our revenue sources have not improved. We do have to come up with more cuts," Dr. Arbet said.
Ms. Rodocker said declining property tax values in Mercer County, the state's late payment of general aid and cuts to transportation aid have contributed to district woes. Additionally, the district has seen declining enrollment from 1,709 students in 2000 to 1,492 in 2012. "General State Aid depends on student enrollment," Mrs. Rodocker said.
Compounding possible problems, she said, is that the school may face taking over pension payments to retired employees from the state, which would cost the district about $500,000 each year.
She said the federal Affordable Care Act will require school districts to provide health insurance to any employee working more than 30 hours per week. Ms. Rodocker estimated the additional cost to the district at $200,000.
Ms. Rodocker said property taxes are being charged at the highest allowable level, with property taxes levied at $4.79 per $100 of equalized assessed valuation in the Sherrard School District. The district has seen declines in the total EAV resulting in receiving less revenue. One audience member asked what that decline amount was, with board member Leslie Anderson estimating it at $285,000 for 2012-13.
The district currently does have a positive balance in its education fund, which would be spent down in four years, according to Mrs. Rodocker. The "crucial point" for a school district is when the cash amount in district coffers reaches the 90 day mark – the point at which cash anticipation warrants need to be issued in order to pay the district bills.
Sherrard is also looking at changing its busing from "in-house" to outsourcing and going to a universal start time.
Mrs. Rodocker cautioned the group about making more cuts – "If we make cuts, there's nothing that won't be affected."
Saving money in Sherrard
Here are suggestions from school officials and parents for ways the Sherrard School District could save money, as made at a special school board meeting this week.
• Shorter hours for custodians, secretaries and some teachers.
• Encouraging early retirement for longtime teachers.
• Sharing administrators between school buildings.
• Closing the unit office building.
• Having larger class sizes.
• Eliminating any sport that does not pay for itself or cutting athletic budgets, cutting number of participants.
• Making cuts in music, art, industrial arts, gifted programs, extracurricular programs, physical education for 11-12th grades if allowed.
• Sharing certain employees with other school districts (psychologist, nurse, social worker).
• Making schools into attendance centers or closing schools.