Board follows Curtis' suggestions for 'good faith' cuts

Friday, September 11, 2009

Budget cuts totaling $100,000 were agreed at a special called meeting of the school board Tuesday night.

Chairwoman Ann Tears was the only dissenting vote as the six board members present voted to approve cuts suggested by schools director Stan Curtis.

Two weeks ago, a similar meeting ended with a 6-3 vote to make no changes in the budget, defying a request from the County commission.

The commission refused to be defeated, and asked the board to reconsider. The commissioners' concern was the reduction of the fund balance to the bare minimum.

"For this budget year and the previous year we have reduced the fund balance by $1.8 million, right?" asked board member Craig Michael.

"It should be $1.6 million," answered chairwoman of the budget committee Kristen Gold. "We've got $200,000 set aside as a reserve."

"My concern is expenditures have exceeded revenues for two years," Michael said.

"That's right," confirmed budget director Janet Wiles.

"It's a trend that concerns some people - listening to the commission, it's one of their concerns," Michael said.

"I feel confident with our budget," said Gold. "I understand their concern with the diminishing fund balance. Dr. Curtis had some suggestions for cuts at the last meeting."

Curtis suggested cuts from capital outlay, maintenance, and professional development, and these were discussed.

"Are you happy with that?" asked board member Mike Keny. "I know it's not the best."

"If it shows good faith I'm confident with it," Curtis answered. "I don't like cutting capital outlay."

"Yes," agreed Michael. "Every dime you don't spend (on capital outlay) is pushing the bill on to someone else. I don't think that's wise."

The board looked again at professional development and travel.

"There's no question we weren't doing enough before you (Curtis) came," Michael said. "It went from $54,000 to $131,000. Let's look once more because it is such a huge increase. It's hard to justify to tax payers and the County commission."

The board learned that "travel" covers "everything except athletic teams," including the travel of supervisors between schools in the system. Included in Curtis' contract is $9,000 for director travel. Travel for professional development is included in the professional development line of the budget.

"We really want to stay in state this year," Curtis said. "Maybe within a 250-mile radius. The teachers seem to be excited and glad to represent Marshall County."

"I think we're all making a good effort," said Gold. "I personally would wish we did not have to cut from professional development."

"We need to get outside the walls," asserted Tears. "I wish we didn't have to cut anything."

"Let's go with the good faith cuts we've made here," proposed Keny. "If we build the relationship with the County commission we can go back to them in an emergency. We can try to build back to what we want in the future."

"Somebody's got to make the first step," said board member Curt Denton.

"Looking at the big picture," Michael said, "What distresses me most is the tremendous number of needs we're not asking for anything for, like lowering the student-teacher ratio and putting mentors in place."

Finally the board agreed on cutting $60,000 from maintenance, $26,692 from capital outlay, and $13,308 from professional development. The budget committee was due to meet again Thursday morning to finalize what was to be handed to the County commission, but that did not take place, due to the unsatisfactory outcome of a meeting between the Marshall County Education Association and the Board of Education Wednesday evening.

Board members absent from the special called meeting were: Dee Dee Owens, Randy Perryman, and Mark Wilkerson.