COLUMBIA — Columbia School Board members voted to approve the district's 2009-2010 budget at Thursday's meeting, but not before expressing concern over how the district can achieve its goals with the current levels of funding.
Linda Quinley, director of business services for Columbia Public Schools, presented the final budget with a few changes from the draft introduced to the board last week. The amount for total expenditures and transfers increased by about $4,000 since a 1 percent stipend extension was approved at the June 8 meeting.
Although there was no public comment on the budget, some board members had questions and comments.
Board member Christine King asked if an increase in special-needs students in the fall would allow the budget to be increased for programs such as English Language Learners. Quinley responded that the budget stays the same even if the number of students increases, unless the board amends it. She added that traditionally, the programs operate on their originally budgeted funds.
Board President Jan Mees discussed the School Board's decision to cut 70 positions in the 2009-2010 budget. She also noted that the board cut 80 positions last year and said the district is "getting down to the bare bones."
"We're asking teachers to do more," board member Michelle Pruitt said.
Pruitt noted how the budget cut all the funds for elementary and middle school field trips. She proposed to discuss at a future date the idea of revising the board's personal budget to get money back for field trips.
"It's another belt-tightening year," Mees said. "Any cuts that were made were taken as far away from the classes as they could have been."
"I think the public needs to understand our funding source," King said after the meeting. "Our revenue has gone down, and the amount of students are increasing."
The board also moved to vote on the addendum to teacher contracts at its meeting on July 7. The proposed addendum would allow excess revenue incurred by the district to be distributed as payment to the teachers, similar to a stipend, said Laurie Spate-Smith, president of Columbia's Missouri National Education Association.
The finance committee did not recommend that the board vote in favor of the addendum but agreed it should vote on the issue, said Tom Rose, vice president of the board.
In other business, the 2008-2009 budget was amended to reallocate funds toward the purchase, transport and setup of five trailers for the elementary schools.
Thursday night was the final meeting for Lynn Barnett, assistant superintendent for student support services. Barnett has been with the district for a total of 30 years.
"It is important to focus on what is best for children and do what's best to meet the needs of the children academically," she said.
Interim Superintendent Jim Ritter and board member Karla DeSpain were absent from the meeting.