Columbia Public Schools looks for ways to meet budget shortfall

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 | 5:48 p.m. CST; updated 10:00 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 11, 2011

COLUMBIA — As many as 20 Columbia Public Schools positions are in line not to be filled as the district looks for ways to meet a projected shortfall in state funding of $5.5 million to $6 million.

The Columbia School Board will discuss budget cuts Wednesday evening at its monthly meeting that was rescheduled from Monday because of snow.

The district's options, outlined by Superintendent Chris Belcher, include increasing local revenue, dipping into reserves, making reductions or some combination.

Belcher on Tuesday said the district was planning to reduce its $158 million operating budget by $2 million. He said that supply reductions, insurance and benefit reductions and staff reductions were all being considered.

Fifteen to 20 staff positions are in line for cuts, Belcher said.

"We are planning on not replacing some positions,” he said. “It is likely only one or two will actually lose their job because of retirement or turnover.”

The district is also hoping for an increase in student attendance.

“This is the only way we can increase money from the state,” Belcher said. “It can have a strong impact on our bottom line.”

Increased attendance can add up to an additional $800,000, Belcher said. “The better we do on that, the less we will have to reduce staff.”

Board of Education President Jan Meese said on Tuesday that it's likely reductions will be made but those details have yet to be worked out.

Drawing down reserves is one possibility, Meese said.

“One way is to make more reductions in our organization and to use some money that we have been saving for this kind of rainy day,” she said.

Belcher said the district's reserve fund has gone from 18 percent to 23 percent — an $8 million increase.

“We are trying to do as much as we can to control costs and be as efficient as we can,” Belcher said.

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