Columbia School Board to discuss budget reduction

Sunday, February 10, 2008 | 4:26 p.m. CST; updated 11:45 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Public School Board will meet Monday to decide what directions to take to cut district expenditures by an estimated $5 million.

The School Board will vote on the administration’s 2008-09 Budget Reduction Parameters, a proposal that was presented to the Columbia Community Teachers Association last week by Superintendent Phyllis Chase and lists seven possible ways the district can save money. Among those are a possible reduction in staff, a freeze on staff salary increases and a delay in purchases of technology and textbooks.

According to the first proposed parameter, if the district decides to “reduce staff,” it will begin by not hiring replacements for retiring or relocating staff members, what the district calls attrition. However, Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services Lynn Barnett said, “We may not be able to handle it all through attrition.”

At the CCTA meeting, Chase said that 100 to 180 staff members leave the district annually. So far, 27 people have told the district they will not return next year.

The fourth proposed parameter states, “The district will consider the delay of planning document timelines.” Barnett explained that this means the district may delay its purchase of new textbooks and technology, such as computers.

However, 82 percent of the district’s annual budget pays for employee salaries and benefits. At the CCTA meeting, one teacher suggested that the district could save money by using less colored paper. Chase replied, “We can’t cut enough paper. We can throw in the paper clips, and it is still not going to be enough.”

Another proposed parameter could affect employee pay.

Teachers and other staff receive salary based on their level of education and the number of years they’ve worked for the district. More often than not, employees’ salaries increase each year they spend with the district. But under the seventh proposed budget parameter, “the district cannot commit to the operation of the current district salary schedules.”

“It is possible that if the operating levy is not approved, salaries would be frozen,” Barnett said.

Other action items to be discussed at Monday’s meeting include:

  • Vote on a resolution for the sale of $30 million in general obligation bonds that were authorized by the public in April 2007.
  • Approve submission to the Missouri Foundation for Health for a $212,584 grant. The grant would “provide money for an after-school high school program called Teens Against Tobacco Use.”
  • Decide whether to nominate School Board President Karla DeSpain for the Missouri School Boards Association Board candidacy

The board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St. The public is invited to attend the meeting, and time is allotted for public comment.

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