Columbia School Board to discuss budget cut details

Sunday, March 8, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 12:37 a.m. CST, Sunday, March 8, 2009

COLUMBIA — Budget reductions equaling $4.4 million will go before the Columbia School Board for approval Monday.

"If we have no additional revenues, we need to look at reductions," board member Steve Calloway said.  "Looking at the revenue we have for next year, these are the cuts we need to make to balance the budget."

The proposed reductions are spread across three areas: district wide ($3,048,000), secondary level ($960,000) and elementary level ($397,000). 

"I'd prefer our kids at the elementary level to be least affected because they're most vulnerable," Calloway said. "The administration has done a very nice job at looking at reductions so that they flow that way."

Interim Superintendent Jim Ritter and assistant superintendents created a preliminary list of district-wide budget cuts equaling $3 million. Principals and program directors were given the preliminary list to share with faculty and staff. They were then asked to find an additional $1.4 million in reductions within their own programs.

Teachers, faculty, staff and parents were asked, “What can you reduce that would have the least impact on your building and your students?” Calloway said.

The combined cuts equal $4.4 million for the district, which will balance the budget with a 16 percent reserve.

The Board of Education Finance Committee recommends the board approve the cuts during Monday's meeting. Approval of reductions will allow the board to begin budget planning and to notify employees who will be affected by the cuts.

However, most of those affected will not be left unemployed, Calloway said.

"Seventy-one positions are being eliminated, the vast majority through attrition," Calloway said. "They’re 71 positions, not 71 people."

There will be an opportunity for public comment after board discussion of the issue. Because of high levels of media attention and input from principals, faculty and staff, Calloway expects comments won't be anything they haven't heard before.

"I’m not saying everyone’s going to be happy about it, but I'm hopeful that it’s a good list, a good set of reductions," Calloway said. "I think they will be well received, as much as reductions could be received."

Calloway said the budget reduction is not a discussion of the salary schedule. Any talk of the salary schedule in the future will mean more reductions.

The school board will also discuss the superintendent contract, changes to the employee benefits program, easement and an art grant to bring a touring educational songwriter to visit Columbia.

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