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District eyes more cuts

BY HOLLY HINES | DECEMBER 07, 2009 7:30 AM

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Iowa City School District officials now have a clearer picture of budget cuts they will need to make.

Officials will likely need to cut between roughly $1.4 million and $7.4 million in the 2010-11 school year to balance the district’s budget, according to a report released Dec. 4.

These estimated amounts are based on expected expenses regarding allowable growth, faculty salaries, and non-personnel costs, such as busing and utilities, said Paul Bobek, the executive director of administrative services.

The cuts come on top of a $5.6 million loss of state funding after Gov. Chet Culver made 10 percent across-the-board cuts in October. The district is using its reserve money to cover that loss, though officials are unsure how to make up for cuts in next year’s budget.

Allowable growth is the amount of revenue increase the state allows the district per student each year. State officials have set next year’s allowable growth amount at 2 percent, less than the district’s traditional 4 percent.

But because state budget-cut estimates fell short by about $1 billion, in addition to the 10 percent across-the-board cuts, state officials may change legislation and decrease the previously set 2 percent allowable growth amount, Bobek said.

The report reflects budget projections based on allowable growth amounts ranging between 2 percent at best and negative 2 percent at worst.

School Board members will review and discuss the recently issued budget report on Tuesday. They will also discuss the possibility of ending bus service to Regina Catholic Education Center, a measure that could save the district roughly $260,000.

School Board member Toni Cilek said working with a wide range of numbers will help the board prepare for many possible outcomes, and board members now know the minimum budget-cutting amount they need to target.

“They’re in the ballpark of what we originally anticipated,” she said, and members haven’t decided on specific ways to make up for next year’s loss.

Salary and non-personnel costs make up approximately 80 percent of the district’s budget, Bobek said. Superintendent Lane Plugge said no specific areas of the budget are being targeted for cuts.

“It’s a tough situation, because you don’t want to make cuts you don’t have to make,” Cilek said, and the last approach district officials want to take is laying off teachers.

Cilek said board members will continue to ask administrators to come forward with budget-cutting ideas, noting they hope to have a process laid out before the end of the year.

Plugge agreed with Cilek, saying the amount officials may need to cut didn’t come as a surprise.

The numbers will serve as a starting place for officials to begin generating solutions, he said.

“They could very easily change,” he said.


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