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Iowa City school officials cut budget

BY CLARK CAHILL | MARCH 9, 2009 7:27 AM

Iowa City School District officials have made their first cuts in an effort to reduce expenses by $6 million over the next two years, Superintendent Lane Plugge said.

Included in the district’s initial cuts are limiting its summer school program, closing its print shop — which will leave one employee jobless — eliminating its safety coordinator position, and not filling a secretary position at its physical plant. Officials announced the plans March 6.

The district’s summer school program will now only offer classes as credit-recovery programs for seventh- through twelfth-graders — so only students who have failed classes can re-take them — and for special education students who require an extended school year.

In prior years, the district has offered a variety of summer courses, from remedial programs in math and reading to enrichment programs like music and drama. A junior-high prep course was also offered to students entering seventh grade to help them get used to the junior-high setting.

“It is with great regret we have to scale back those programs,” Plugge said, adding the new summer school program will save the district between $300,000 and $400,000.

District officials’ decision to close the print shop will save them around $95,000 on upkeep, executive director of administrative services Paul Bobek said. The district’s printing needs, which totaled $594,000 in the past five years, will now be contracted through the UI beginning April 1, he said.

Plugge said he is looking forward to working with the UI and finding ways to share operations.

A new “office manager” position will fill the duties of both a district-safety coordinator and secretary of the physical plant, Plugge said. The Iowa City School District is one of the only districts in the state that employs a full-time safety coordinator, Plugge said. Duties for this position included working with outside agencies, like the fire department, for safety inspections and making safety plans for schools.

With the closing of the print shop and new office manager position, the district will save around $262,000, Bobek said.

“It’s difficult eliminating positions, but it’s the reality we face having to lower expenditures,” Plugge said.

The district is also considering — though officials have not yet approved — a change to its bell schedules for the 2009-10 school year, beginning a school day for secondary schools earlier than for elementary schools. This would allow for one bus to take on two routes — a move that could save the district somewhere between $400,000 and $800,000, Plugge said.

“The more we save from [transportation], the less we have to look at cutting staff,” Plugge said.
Plugge said he is hopeful for funding from the state for its instructional support levy, which could get the district $905,000.

The Iowa City School Board will hear the updated cuts at its meeting on Tuesday night.


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