With budgets at the forefront of nearly everyone’s mind, how to keep school districts afloat during financial uncertainty was the dominant theme at this year’s Indiana School Board Association conference.
For local superintendents, how to do the same or more with less funding was a common theme.
“It’s all based on the revenue that the state generates,” said Steve Darnell, superintendent of Smith-Green Community Schools.
Amid revenue that’s far less than predictions, it’s also about the revenue the state doesn’t generate.
“It’s hard not to see where schools are going to get reduced again,” Whitko Community Schools Superintendent Steve Clason said.
From the state level, the Indiana Department of Education has hinted at some cuts in the future, and a recent memo from the IDOE said more reductions are likely to come.
For Whitley County Consolidated Schools Superintendent Patricia O’Connor, her optimistic thoughts of the financial future for school districts met with reality at the conference.
She said the outlook for general funds for school districts is “very grave.”
“It was a dose of reality for me,” O’Connor said.
All local school districts worked with cuts of some sort within the last year, whether it was staff or administration.
What they tried to avoid were cuts to programs or extracurricular activities, but if further cuts continue, school programs could be next on the list.
“We’re at the point where maybe it’s programs,” Clason said of what would need to be cut next.
Darnell said he and the Smith-Green board members at the conference expected to hear of future cuts to schools and will plan for reductions in 2011, but hope they don’t have to do them.
“We’re just going to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he said.
With 13 certified and 13 non-certified staff cut in the last year at Whitko, the thought of further cuts only lights the fire more under the feet of those at the district who are pushing to get a referendum passed that would allow the district to raise its tax rate sometime during the next seven years.
Some of those staff returned to fill vacant positions, but the district, like others, still does not have a full staff.
For WCCS, some positions left vacant are the assistant superintendent and other positions in various buildings.
“We have many positions that are frozen and we’re not filling,” O’Connor said.