Iowa City School District eyes many cuts

BY CLARK CAHILL | APRIL 13, 2009 7:40 AM

Iowa City School District officials will recommend more cuts that could reduce spending by up to $2.4 million, Superintendent Lane Plugge said on April 10.

One of the recommended cuts is to freeze district and building administrators’ salaries, saving $198,000.

“While salaries will be frozen, the district will be able to pick up more benefits for employees,” Plugge added.

Officials also hope to reduce the administrative staff by one position — they won’t hire a replacement for an outgoing administrator — that would save $116,000 per year, said Jim Pederson, the district’s human-resources director.

Officials also hope they can save money through teacher resignations, early retirement, and leaves of absence, Pederson said.

“It’s safe to say there will be fewer positions [next year], but hopefully, it doesn’t equal cutting staff,” he said.

Although officials have not included any teacher reductions to date, Plugge said it will be difficult to stay away from cutting personnel when 80 percent of the district’s budget goes to employees.

There will also be no increase in salaries for substitute teachers, and employees working overtime. Plugge said the district hopes to maintain or reduce the number of substitutes in the 2009-10 school year that they have used this year.

Officials will also recommend five options to change the bell schedule for elementary and secondary schools that would reduce the number of buses used for transportation and save the district anywhere from $275,000 to $825,000, Plugge said.

The new schedules could have secondary schools starting as early as 7:40 a.m. and ending as late as 4 p.m. Elementary schools could start as early as 7:50 a.m. and end as late as 3:50 p.m.

Some concerns surrounding the potential scheduling are whether students will be able to perform to their full potential so early in the day and whether finding childcare for younger students will be difficult, Plugge said.

If officials choose to end secondary schools at 4 p.m., it would be much more difficult for students to get to after-school activities such as sporting events, especially if they are out of town, Plugge said. One of the options addressing this issue would be to cut down the length of the school day by 20 minutes.

The recent recommendations are another step in an effort to cut expenditures by $6 million over the next two years. District officials have already cut their summer school program significantly, closed the in-house print shop, and laid off a safety coordinator.

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