School board discusses budget situation

The district budget took the floor for an hour in a special work session held prior to the regular school board meeting Tuesday night, April 14.
Board members met with Richmond Superintendent Jim Robins to go over the forms that assist in determining the district’s state funding formula and allocations, and discuss budget considerations in the district.
Using weighted ADA (average daily attendance) calculation estimates, the board learned state funding depends on the ADA.
“We get $6,117 per student per year to educate them,” said Robins. “If you add 10 more kids to the district, you get $61,170 more. If you lose 10 kids, you lose that much. This year we decreased by around 75 students.”
The calculation estimates take into consideration enrollment this year, last year and the year before. The largest enrollment of those three years is used and is considered the real number for the 2008-09 school year.
“The trend we’re in will hit two years out. We’re in as good a shape as anyone around us, but we need to make cuts now,” Robins said. “Most of our fixed costs will go up five percent. KCP&L rates are anticipated to increase by 17 percent next year. Donnie’s [Fowler] will go up 4 percent [for bus transportation]. Districts that have enrollment going up are in good shape.”
Robins went on to say there is good news, though it speaks of the economy.
“We really don’t fully feel the pinch. The stimulus package bought us a year. We’re doing better because we have more people in the lunch program (free and reduced). Next year we’ll be OK,” said Robins. “The budget this year is good. Next year? Not so good, and after that it goes on down.”
Noting that Lexington has already cut around 10 teachers, due to enrollment dwindling from 1,200 students to 900 students, Richmond is looking ahead.
“We have already cut $150,000 from the budget without affecting student achievement or causing people to lose their jobs,” said Robins. “Our enrollment has gone from 1,700 kids to 1,500 in 10 years.”
Robins discussed future class sizes, too, and said the situation is manageable this year. He suggested that second grade can go with one less teacher next year, due to an upcoming retirement.
“Seventy percent of our budget is salaries. We’ll look at attrition first, to save some positions. Some are close to retirement, and could look at working part time. All positions that come open, we’re looking in the district first before posting it. We shouldn’t have anyone lose their job because of the budget,” said Robins. He also talked about some positions being half positions. Richmond School District employs 125 teachers.
“We could probably get through next year, then hope enrollment goes up,” Robins continued. “If you have one good year, you can live off of it for three years [based on the ADA calculation estimate form].
One hundred and sixty kindergarteners helps you for three years.”
The Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs school districts went with the one planning time concept to keep the teachers in the classrooms more. Some districts have discontinued their summer school program, or run it every other year. Robins said the district is really looking at ways to keep their employees while still making the cuts that are necessary.
“We’ve had certified and non-certified people wanting work, apply to the district,” he said. “People want to work.”
Discussion continued as Robins explained that the district will begin to ‘count’ students participating in the before school/after school programs, something they didn’t know they could do. The district is also looking at further developing these programs for students making up schoolwork. These activities do count in the enrollment numbers.
“That’s the reason we don’t cut activity programs,” said Robins, “or enrollment goes down. We figure $22 per kid per day. If the kid is kicked out, it costs money.”
Discussing school suspensions, Robins said most can be done in-school and therefore keep money in the district.
Even early graduation costs the district $22 per kid per day, as do snow days. The best thing for the students and the district is to have every student achieve perfect attendance.
Another concern is the district health insurance. Employees have been presented with a core plan and a buy-up plan.
“We need to make a decision next month,” said Robins. “It’s frustrating, but there’s a flickering hope. We still face a 27.7 percent increase if we keep the plan we have now. That would be $200,000 that we don’t have.”
The formal budget for the 2009-2010 school year will be determined and finalized in June.

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