Board adopts school budget for next year

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:46 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

On Monday night, the Columbia School Board viewed some of the results of last year’s decisions and then voted to adopt next year’s budget.

Last year, West Boulevard Elementary School was chosen as a site for the model school program because of the high poverty rate, behavior problems and low achievement at the school. At the meeting, West Boulevard Principal Vickie Robb presented the results of the first year of the program, which used research-based strategies to boost student achievement.

Robb presented data and test scores that indicated increased academic achievement and parent involvement and decreased discipline problems.

“This is just chapter one of our story of rebuilding West Boulevard,” Robb said.

Deputy Superintendent Jacque Cowherd then presented the proposed budget to the board. The budget was unanimously adopted without public comment and with little discussion by the board.

The new budget projects revenues of about $175.6 million, about $3.4 million more than initially anticipated. Columbia Public Schools expects to spend about $181.6 million next year, the majority of which will be used for teachers and personnel.

The district has added positions for seven elementary teachers and 19 secondary teachers. The large increase of teachers at the high school level reflects the growing enrollment in Columbia schools. Cowherd said last week that more secondary teachers are needed to keep class sizes small.

“We’re just trying to adjust class sizes and continue to offer the wide variety of courses that we offer,” Cowherd said.

About 49 other positions have been added for teaching and support staff throughout the district.

The budget will also increase teachers’ base salary from $27,600 to $27,900. Although the pay raise is much smaller than last year’s $1,800 increase, Mary Laffey, director of human resources, said that it is significant enough to make the district more competitive with other districts in the state.

Ed Hanson, president of Columbia Community Teachers’ Association and music teacher at West Boulevard, said that teachers had hoped for a larger raise, but are satisfied with the new budget.

“Teachers were not as happy as we could have been, especially after last year’s record pay raise,” Hanson said. “But we recognize that there are a lot of uncertainties, so we just say ‘let’s try again next year.’”

The teachers’ schedule will also be increased from 185 to 187 days, which will further increase the base salary to $28,202. The two extra days will be used for curriculum planning and other strategies for student achievement.

The state has not provided full funding to the school district since the 2000-01 school year, Cowherd said. To fund the budget, the district will reduce reserves from 21.31 percent to 18.25 percent.

Cowherd said that on the whole, the board was satisfied with the budget.

“I don’t think there’s ever a board member or administrator that’s pleased to spend reserves and deficit spending,” he said. “But we’ve faced some pretty tough times in the state, and we build our reserves so we should be able to weather some of those situations.”

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