School board considers additional financial cuts

RANGELY — Faced with a budget shortfall of $500,000 to $700,000, the Rangely School Board has already closed Parkview Elementary to save money.
rangelypantherbiggerBut the board is considering other tough decisions in an effort to cut costs, such as going to a four-day school week and eliminating some student activities, including soccer and baseball.
“The board has asked the administration to look at every facet, since we’re in the situation we’re in,” said Superintendent Dwayne Newman. “We came forward with a list of, if we have to cut, these are the things we suggest cutting.”
The administration’s recommended cuts include eliminating stipends for music, dropping speech and Knowledge Bowl activities, not funding golf and cross country and cutting soccer and baseball.
“If they did those cuts, we’d probably save in the neighborhood of $20,000 a year, which to give some perspective, is half of a teacher’s salary and benefits,” Newman said.
The school board will consider the cost-cutting recommendations at its next meeting Monday.
“We’re having anyone who wants to comment (about the possible cuts) to direct that to our athletic director, Mark Jansen,” Newman said. “He will gather up all of the comments and present them to the board at the next meeting. We don’t have to make a decision immediately, but we do have to make a decision before we finalize the ’09-’10 budget. I’m shooting for late May (to finalize the budget).”
“Athletics/activities have been on the radar since we began discussing our budget situation,” said Matt Scoggins, school board president. “Most of our focus has been on the school closure, but we are now looking closer at other areas as well. No decision, however, has been made regarding these recommendations. This is only one area out of a number that will be looked it.”
The district anticipates saving $430,000 by closing Parkview Elementary and moving grade-school classes, preschool through fifth grade, to the middle school building, while grades sixth through 12th will be at the high school building.
The board, at its meeting April 13, decided to eliminate three positions, in another cost-cutting move. Two aide positions were cut, as well as a language arts/physical education position at the high school.
“We eliminated two aide positions, and we’re not going to fill a teacher position,” Newman said. “That’s three staff positions that we just have to do without.”
Even with the cost-saving measures, it’s estimated the district will still face a budget shortfall, which is why the board is considering the possibility of implementing a four-day school week.
“We still have about $113,000 that we would need to find someplace, either through increasing revenue, or decreasing costs, if we’re going to achieve all of the goals we’ve talked about,” Newman said. “The options for the district are looking at further instructional changes, maybe a four-day school week, or going to the school foundation and seeing if the foundation will grant the district money to backfill (the budget shortfall) and allow them one more year to prepare for a four-day school week, if that’s the direction they choose to go. That’s the only way I can see to create a viable budget.
“My recommendation to the board is going to be to approach the school foundation,” Newman added. “Because I think the changes we’ve seen and experienced this year are going to be big enough, and everyone needs time to step back and prepare. A four-day school week would be a big change in the instructional mindset for teachers. It’s not fair to the staff and it’s not good for the kids, unless you give them time to plan and prepare and collaborate, when it really comes to putting (a four-day school week) into practice.”
The district would save about $130,000 by going to a four-day school week.
“That’s our best estimate, as far as what we’d actually save,” Newman said.
The board needs time to study the issues, Newman said, before making a decision about a four-day school week.
“It’s better for the kids if the district operates efficiently, so we can funnel a greater proportion of money to things that benefit instruction and student achievement,” Newman said. “But it’s not easy. These (changes) are huge.”
In other business, the school board will interview candidates this weekend for the high school principal’s position, replacing Nicole Walker, who resigned.
Seven applications were received, including two from in-house candidates, Scoggins said.