BG seeks ideas to cut costs at schools
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer
Thursday, 25 July 2013 09:44
After a table of five residents had been discussing ways for the Bowling Green school district to save money for about 20 minutes, Board Member Eric Myers approached the table.
"Do you have any questions?" he asked.
Kisha Nichols, a kindergarten teacher at Kenwood, then chimed in: "Sorry we don't have any answers."
Attendance was sparse Tuesday for the first in a series of public forum hosted by the school district to try to find additional savings in the budget. Five more forums are scheduled, all at Crim Elementary School, 1020 Scott Hamilton Drive. The forums will be: today at 6:30 p.m.; Monday at noon; July 31 at noon; Aug. 2 at 8 a.m.; and Aug. 7 at 8 a.m.
The district is facing the need to make reductions in the face of two defeats at the ballot, the first for an income tax and the second for a property tax.
The last vote went down by a 2-to-1 margin.
"We need more cuts because our voters have told us twice we are not going to give you more money," Treasurer Rhonda Melchi said.
Melchi provided an update on the district's financial fortunes. In her graph marking revenues and expenditures, the expenditures line still arcs upward, while the revenue line is flat.
The gap between the two has been narrowed somewhat by a series of cost savings.
Those include having students pay to play sports and take part in extracurricular activities.
Melchi also listed a number of other savings that tally up to $1,120,777.
Those savings are:
• Teachers agreeing to a salary freeze, including any increases for additional education or experience, saves $312,493.
• Other non-certified employees agreeing to a salary freeze, saves $67,500.
• Administrators having a salary freeze and cuts in benefits, $83,750.
• Closing Ridge Elementary, which eliminates a principal, secretary and custodian, saves $201,600.
• Employees paying more for their health insurance, $208,000.
• Postponing the purchase of two buses, saves $180,000. "We can't continue to do that," Melchi said.
• Reduction in the supply budget, $34,000.
• Reducing the number of building substitute teachers by two, saves $33,434.
Also, any new administrators hired will not have the Board of Education pay their share into the state retirement fund, class sizes may be increased and ways to minimize custodial overtime are being studied.
"We're still going to have a gap," Melchi said.
She did not calculate in the increase in state funding because it is uncertain how other changes will affect the budget. "We're still not counting on that," she said.
The state, through programs such as the Peterson scholarships for special needs students, is making it easier for students to transfer to charter schools. When they do, the district loses the full per pupil funding, not the reduced amount the district actually receives.
Those attending the meeting were given a list of administrative staff positions as well as information on busing, technology, library, co-curriculars and extracurriculars, class sizes and elective courses.
Board member Steve Cernkovich said: "There's this perception out there that there's all these extras to cut."
Nichols said the district needs to spell out what will be cut if the funding situation remains the same. "Parents say to me, 'we need to know what's going to be cut.'"
One of the items would be to reduce busing. The district now provides busing for all students who live a mile or more from school. The state requires a district provide transportation for students up to grade 8 who live two miles or more from school.
But given routing, that actually may not save all that much money, said longtime bus driver Sharon Stratmann.
Stratmann said she's heard support for an earned income tax, which would exempt retirement income.
Melchi said when the district looked for an income tax increase it considered that, but the increase would have had to be greater to make up for the lost income.
Superintendent Ann McVey said while small cuts "add up, we're talking about needing to get to millions" in savings.
Cernkovich said he hopes that some of those who were most vocal in their opposition to the levy that failed in May would attend one of the sessions to give their input.