Lindbergh board gives initial OK to $2 million in reductions for ’09-’10

By MIKE ANTHONY

Tentative approval to more than $2 million in reductions for the coming school year was given last week by the Lindbergh Board of Education.

Despite the reductions, a deficit of $3 million is projected for the 2009-2010 school year, according to the preliminary operating budget presented May 19 to the school board. The preliminary 2009-2010 budget projects operating revenues totaling $57,708,712 with anticipated expenditures of $60,708,712 — a deficit of $3 million. The district will not go into the red, but instead will dip into its reserves, which total nearly $25 million.

With reserves totaling $29,935,469 projected at the end of the current school year, a balance of $21,935,469 is projected at the end of the 2009-2010 school year. The projected 2009-2010 deficit adheres to district’s long-range financial plan that calls for a planned spend down of those reserves with a deficit-spending cap of $3 million per year.

The Board of Education is scheduled to consider final ap-proval of the 2009-2010 budget on Tuesday, June 9.

Noting this was his 16th budget workshop, Chief Finan-cial Officer Pat Lanane said, “It is different from any of the previous workshops in a pretty substantial way. As you know, this year we had a decrease in residential property assessments and projected taxes. That simply doesn’t happen in Lindbergh and it’s unprecedented.

“Instead of a $2 million to $4 million net increase in revenue, we’re actually looking at a $250,000 decrease … We have always counted on reassessment to build our revenues and because the state of Missouri has relegated us to a hold-harmless status, that is the only place that we have a potential for revenues …,” he added.

Projected operating revenues for the coming school year total $57,708,712 — $69,888 less than the $5,778,600 in revenue anticipated for the current school year. Projected operating expenditures for the 2009-2010 school year total $60,708,712— $159,132 more than the $60,549,580 in anticipated expenditures this year.

The chief financial officer also noted new-expenditure requests for the 2009-2010 school year totaled less than $8,000.

“There is less than $8,000 in new requests. I can tell you that has not been the case in prior years — so very different. In fact, what we’ll be looking at for the most tonight is recommended reductions and that total amount is $2,067,829 because we have to keep within our budget plan,” Lanane said. “The good news is many of the budget cuts that affect personnel have been able to be done by attrition …”

Regarding the proposed reductions, Lanane said, “… We have here a listing of really all the reductions that we’re looking at here for tonight and, the amount, which is, of course, important … Our first choice in making reductions was attrition and two things to be said again: It’s by far the best way to go from a human standpoint. But the second point is: That doesn’t mean they don’t hurt. All of these things we’re talking about were added and were valuable to the school district. We would like to have every one of these back the way we originally had them. It’s just not going to be possible going into next year, and so we did it in the best way possible, but I don’t want anyone in the public to think these don’t hurt. There is pain involved with these reductions.”

Among the reductions tentatively approved:

• Twelve-percent reduction to all supply budgets — “This is a continuation of a mid-year reduction for 2008-2009. This reduction is applied to all budgets in the areas of supplies, purchased services and capital expenditures. While the reduction was certainly noticeable, it should have less impact next year since it is known going into the year rather than after a considerable portion of the budget had already been expended,” according to information Lanane provided to the board.

• Summer school teachers and transportation/reduction of summer school programming — “… To reduce the budget for summer school provided by the district and not covered by state reimbursement, student/teacher ratio will be higher and transportation has been eliminated. At the high school level, the only courses offered are those with enrollment high enough to support full state reimbursement. At the middle school level, the number of teachers has been reduced by using a higher student/teacher ratio.

“The elementary summer program is the area of the largest savings. In the past, each building had at least one teacher for each grade level and a lead teacher for each location. This year, one elementary summer program is offered at Sappington with all elementary buildings prioritizing the students that are recommended.”

• Classroom size reduction (CSR) 2.5 FTE (full-time equivalent) at fourth-grade — “Fourth-grade CSRs were the last to be implemented as a part of the balanced literacy implementation three years ago. At semester, the fourth-grade CSR moves to kindergarten. The addition of fourth- grade CSRs was requested to assist fourth-grade teachers in their move to balanced literacy. By fourth grade, students are working less with guided reading — role of the CSR — and more with reading workshop. Students at the kindergarten level are not ready for guided reading until second semester of kindergarten. By eliminating one grade level of CSR, the third-grade CSR will move to kindergarten at semester. This reduction will impact third-grade students as they receive one less semester of more small group work with a highly trained reading teacher. Another impact may be reading achievement scores for both third and fourth grade without the differentiated instruction offered by CSRs to the students in most need of specific reading instruction.”

• Developmental math 2 FTE at elementary — “The number of .5 developmental math teachers was increased two years ago to provide small-group instruction at the Missouri Assessment Program-tested grade levels, three to five. Without the additional math teachers, not all students needing math intervention will receive the support.”

• District math coordinator — “… Of all these reductions, this cut will have the greatest impact on instruction and achievement.”

• District science coordinator — “… We are losing a teacher with significant content knowledge who has been highly involved with the science educators in the area.”