Alexis Bechman’s Oct. 20 Roundup article entitled “Schools told to expect 10-15 percent cuts” generated a flurry of questions from the folks living in the Pine Strawberry community. The most prominent question asked was, “How is the school going to be affected?”
I do have some answers but unfortunately, the answers I have today may change over time, as it would appear that the state doesn’t really know what is going happen or to what extent.
Given the information that I have today, the Pine Strawberry School (PSS) would realize a $472,419 reduction to our current operating budget if the state imposed a 15 percent, across-the-board budget cut. That’s a lot of money.
Again, that begs an answer to the question: “How is the school going to be affected?” The answer is: PSS will not be affected, at least to the point where staff, students and parents will feel the pain that other districts have felt, at least not this school year.
Fortunately for PSS, our farsighted business manager, Mary Jo Licavoli, has been setting aside money for a budget crisis like we might face this January. The school has in the bank $261,286 in these funds: Forest Service Fees — $176,107, Tower Dollars — $44,044, and Small Schools — $41,175.
The school will make up the difference by freezing all hard and soft capital expenditures from this point forward. That means a 15-year-old bus will not be replaced, some scheduled maintenance will be deferred, and textbooks and some instructional supplies will not be ordered. We can live with that for the remainder of this school year. Next year may be a different situation entirely.
We will use every penny of our soft dollars to make sure that PSS will not have to cut personnel or programs this school year. PSS has already combined two grade levels into one and reduced instructional staff by two.
We have pretty well reduced staff to the bare minimum necessary to maintain the instructional program as required by the state board of education. The only programs PSS has outside of the core instruction arena are band, half-time physical education and art, and extra-curricular sports. Fortunately, the band and art teacher is the same person, which saves the district a considerable amount of money.
It appears, barring any further surprises from the state, that PSS will be able to weather the financial storm this school year. However, I must admit that I am gravely concerned about FY 2010 and 2011.
The Pine Strawberry Elementary School District Governing Board will be hosting a community forum in the near future for the purpose of providing the most current budget information and the affect on school operations. The date, time and place will be announced.