School board approves budget guidelines

Monday, February 11, 2008 | 10:42 p.m. CST; updated 1:11 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This article was updated to clarify information about budget paraments the district will use to bring down costs.

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Public School Board voted unanimously Monday to approve the 2008-09 Budget Reduction Parameters aimed at saving the district an estimated $5 million.

There was no public comment before the vote.

2008-09 Budget Reduction Parameters

Columbia Public School District is going to reduce its budget by an estimated $5 million. Here are the reduction measures the Board of Education are looking at, quoted from the 2008-09 Budget Reduction Parameters sent out by the district: 1. The district will adhere to Board-adopted policies pertaining to reduction in force if necessary. Reduction in staffing will be accomplished through attrition when possible. 2. The district will not plan to have classes larger than Department of Elementary and Secondary Education minimum standards. 3. The district will consider recurring as well as one-time expenditures for reductions/elimination. 4. The district will consider the delay of planning document timelines. 5. The district will work toward multi-year teacher/staff compensation plans to maintain consistency in budget planning. 6. The district will continue to explore alternative funding opportunities. 7. The district cannot commit to the operation of the current district salary schedules. —The Columbia School Board

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The parameters are a list of seven possible ways to save the district money. During discussion, the board weighed pros and cons of various options for cutting the budget.

The budget cuts, along with the proposed April tax levy that might bring in $10.26 million, will “put (the district) at a place where we can meet the operating responsibilities for the next four to five years,” said board Vice President Darin Preis.

“We’ve made a commitment to the community to tighten our belts no matter what,” Preis said. There can be “no fluff in the budget.” If the levy doesn’t pass in April, Preis said the district would be forced to make more cuts than they had previously predicted.

The approved Budget Parameters stipulate the areas at which the district will look to save money. Scenarios the district will consider are possible layoffs, salary freezes of teachers and support staff and postponing of the purchase of supplies such as new textbooks and computers as ways to cut the budget.

In the coming month, Linda Quinley, the district's director of business services, will calculate how much money each of those scenarios would save the district. The board will then consider those at its next meeting.

“This is a planning parameter,” Superintendent Phyllis Chase said. “It allows us to run some scenarios and then come back.”

Layoffs would mean larger class sizes, which board member Michelle Gadbois thought was an important issue.

“I think that’s something our community needs to hear,” Gadbois said. “That their children could be in classrooms with lots and lots of children if the (tax) levy doesn’t pass.”

Employees of Columbia Public Schools had the chance to share their ideas for budget cuts with the board through an online survey. As of Monday night, 350 employees had responded.

In other business, the board;

- Approved the resolution for the sale of $30 million in general obligation bonds.

- Approved the submission of a $200,000 grant request to the Missouri Foundation for Health.

- Nominated Karla DeSpain for the Missouri School Boards Association Board candidacy.

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Missourian reporters Audrey Spalding, Tanner Flowers and Erin Ash contributed to this report.

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