March 07. 2013 4:17PM
The Dell Rapids School District Board of Education could need to find up to $621,000 in cost savings from its general budget after the state legislature finishes its work in Pierre, and that has some faculty members voicing concerns.
This year, the district will spend $5.1 million while only bringing in $4.97 million in revenues.
With a three percent increase expected in state aid per student and scheduled raises and benefit bumps for some faculty, staff and administration on the horizon, the deficit will be made up in the fiscal year 2014 budget through cost reductions, direct cuts, reserves and shifting some revenue from the capital outlay fund to the general fund or vice versa.
Additionally, an anticipated $25,000 decrease in bank franchise tax revenue and the expiration of a recently allowed financing tool isn’t making the board’s job any easier.
This year, the Dell Rapids school board used $399,800 in capital outlay dollars for items like fuel, electricity, water and sewer, waste disposal, vehicle fuel and insurance, expenditures required to be financed through the general fund before 2009. But the law allowing capital outlay funds to pay for general fund items has a sunset clause for June 30, 2014.
Legislation to extend the sunset provision by four years made it out of the state Senate and is being considered in the state House of Representatives. If the measure is killed in the house, the board will not use any capital outlay dollar for the general fund next year. If it ends up getting the Governor’s signature, the board intends to use $200,000 of capital outlay dollars for general fund expenditures.
“Even if it’s extended, we couldn't continue to move forward with that amount,” Schultz said.
Because staff salaries and benefits make up more than 80 percent of the district’s expenditures, faculty won’t be exempt from the budget discussion. Being considered for reduction through cuts and restructuring are webmaster services, nursing, administrative and support services, counseling, the Career and Technical Education Academy, the Alternative Learning center, the Family and Consumer Science program, the fifth and sixth grade band and computer instruction at the elementary school, among other areas of the budget.
High school counselor Jennifer Ruesink attended the meeting and advised the board not to cut any counselors. “We feel it’s necessary to maintain the current contracts of three full-time counselors at Dell Rapids public school,” she said. “With approximately 900 student in our schools, it’s in the best interest of the district to have three full-time counselors on staff.”
Ruesink said the American School Counselors Association recommends one counselor for every 250 students. “Children today struggle with a number of emotional, social, societal and family concerns that impact their academic achievement,” she said. “With the potential in reduction for counseling staff, the concern is that our students may not have these needs met.”
The Family and Consumer Science program, also called FACS, saw a big reduction in its budget two years, Beverly Rieck said.
Rieck, who teaches nutrition and wellness, skills for parenting and serving communities and family, said for some students, life skills are learned through the FACS program.
“In an age when about 80 percent of households have both parents working outside the home, some of the students need and can directly gain from the skills,” she said.
For other students, the FACS program is what they’re best at, Rieck said.
“There are some benefits you can’t measure in numbers,” she said. “Some students who find no other opportunities for success and leadership greatly benefit from the FACS program.”
Board president Tom Morris said any input into the budget discussions by faculty, staff or community members and ensure Rieck, Ruesink and the others in attendance that although a list for consideration has been made, it’s not final.
“We are just beginning the budget process,” he said. “We appreciate you taking time and bringing information into us and we’ll definitely take everything into consideration.”
Schultz said impact of faculty reductions could be lessened in the event of teacher retirements and other staffing changes.