School Board approves final budget

Monday, June 30, 2008 | 5:47 p.m. CDT; updated 4:54 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — At a meeting of the Columbia School Board on Monday, a few questions about the 2008-2009 budget remained.

Were the number of math and literacy coach positions being reduced by 11 or 12, member Ines Segert wanted to know. (It’s 12.)

Member Jan Mees wanted to know how much bigger elementary school classes were going to get. (They don’t know yet.)

Member Tom Rose wanted to know why the board doesn’t respond specifically to public comment. (They’re working on communications overall.)

But by and large, the hour-long meeting perked along in a straightforward fashion and concluded with a 7-0 vote in favor of a version of the budget known as “Budget C.” It was chosen from four options at a meeting June 19 and was passed just in time for the June 30 budget deadline mandated by the state.

Under this plan, the salary schedule will not be funded — meaning employees will not get regularly scheduled pay increases — but teachers will get back two days of pay cut that were in a previous draft of the budget. Hourly workers will not.

“We handle hourly staff and salary staff differently,” Superintendent Phyllis Chase said at the meeting. “While we are working for equity, there is no way to have total equality between the two staffs.”

Because of the addition of those two days, two half-time positions that weren’t cut and $100,000 that was kept in the budget for extra duties for teachers, the finalized cuts now amount to $7.7 million instead of the originally planned $9.9 million, said Linda Quinley, director of business services for the district.

Quinley also said the board knew that there was about $680,000 in cuts that could not be made and that would have to be taken from the district’s reserves. Columbia Public Schools will enter the upcoming school year with a deficit of about $2.5 million.

Mees, who voted against Budget C at the June 19 meeting, said Monday afternoon that she did so out of concern about starting next year with a larger deficit. But she said she thought it was important to support the majority of the board with this recent vote.

Also being factored into budget cuts is the removal of about 81.6 full-time equivalent positions, which include 22 permanent substitute positions.

Overall, the reductions will increase the number of students in some classrooms. That will be determined using a formula based on actual enrollment and what’s called “weighted average daily attendance” of students — that is, the number of students who show up at points in September and January.

Quinley said the district will start implementing the budget Tuesday.

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