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Columbia School Board adopts 2011-12 budget

Thursday, June 23, 2011 | 5:41 p.m. CDT; updated 5:54 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 23, 2011

COLUMBIA­The Columbia School Board voted Thursday to adopt a 2011-12 budget after eight months of planning.

The budget includes $161.4 million in district operating funds and $1.82 million in budget reductions. The final operating budget is less than 1 percent higher than last year's $160.2 million figure.

The board made a number of strategic cuts, including:

  • $572,000 for 9.34 teacher full-time equivalencies at the middle, junior and senior high schools. The district is expecting to manage this with retirements and resignations.
  • $375,000 for various curriculum-operating budgets, including instructional supply and assessment.
  • $224,404 for three special education teachers.
  • $86,875 in the guidance outreach and home school communicators budget.
  • $81,586 for one Title I coordinator.
  • $59,226 for an English language learner teacher.
  • $52,968 for two school resource officers for middle and junior high schools. The service is to be provided by the director of security and one floating school resource officer.

The finalized 2011-12 budget also reflects anticipated increases in transportation, utilities, fuel and other costs that total $550,360.

The district plans to add $865,800 in instructional and student support costs by hiring teachers for the new suspension center, for junior high algebra and for Lange Middle School. The budget also accounts for increases in staff for early childhood special education and districtwide implementation of the Study Island program.

A $387,000 contingency budget is built in for teachers, staff, services and supplies to accommodate student population growth.

Board member Michelle Pruitt was the only member to vote against the final budget Thursday morning. Superintendent Chris Belcher said he expected her dissent.

Pruitt said she did not support the board’s decision to put an additional $1.5 million toward the Title I preschool program, which is federally funded. In her view, the program was not sufficiently evaluated before the decision was made.

“Michelle is the ultimate budget conservative on the board,” Belcher said. “We try to find the balance of my recommendations and how they respond to them, and then adjust them according to where I can get the best support as possible.”

In making the necessary cuts and additions to the budget, classroom size and sustaining programs have remained a priority, Belcher said.

“From my own opinion, we are almost at the end of the budget cuts. We’re at the end of the cuts where I can look someone in the eye and tell them that it won’t impact the quality of our programs,” Belcher said in an earlier conversation.

The Thursday morning work session also included an agreement to purchase a building at 901 Rain Forest Parkway for the early childhood special education program. The purchase will be funded by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education over an eight-year period.

The board will meet next for a retreat in July when it will continue a discussion of the suggested tax levy for the 2012-13 school year, Belcher said.

A 60-cent property tax increase in 2012-13 would bring the district out of the deficit for the 2012-13 projected budget and create more than a $9.5 million surplus.

Collective bargaining issues and the makeup of a policy committee will also be discussed at the retreat, Belcher said.


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