WCCS readies for 2011 budget

Following a $1 million reduction for its budget this year, Whitley County Schools is poised to approve its proposed 2011 budget, which is about $320,000 less than this year’s.“That’s where we made our massive reductions earlier this year,” said Tony Zickgraf, business and operations manager for WCCS.He said the district took into account no new money from the earlier cuts imposed on the district.The district’s capital improvement fund, which handles all building improvements, took a “hard hit” in recent years, but the district hopes to build the account to its usual level of $3.7 million, according to Zickgraf.He and superintendent Pat O’Connor have met recently with building administrators to see how much they can save on the rest of this year’s budget and how to get the most out of however much funding is approved by the Indiana Department of Local Government and Finance for next year.“It won’t be as severe as last year, but we may have to make some choices later in the year,” Zickgraf said.One of the largest factors in determining a district’s budget, the assessed value of the property in the district, is still unknown, but may be available by the end of the week.Assessed value, income from the student count, how many special education students are enrolled and the number of students in vocational classes are the biggest factors that determine the district’s funding.The district’s enrollment reached a four-year low in the 2008-09 school year, with 3,406 students, but increased this school year by 10.According to the proposed budget, all buildings in the district have less students than the buildings’ maximum capacity. For current enrollment, Mary Raber Elementary has 157 fewer students than its maximum capacity, Coesse Elementary has 181 fewer and Columbia City High School has 167 fewer.Indian Springs Middle School has the closest student enrollment to its maximum capacity of any school in the district, with only 61 fewer students than the 900-student maximum.One area in the budget with a large proposed increase from last year is the district’s bus replacement plan.An order from the state level in recent years said school districts can only replace buses every 12 years, instead of every 10 years as was previously done in many cases.For WCCS, the last couple of years have been “lean” for bus replacement, according to Zickgraf, but the district is poised to replace seven buses next year, which will take the bus replacement fund from its current level of about $270,000 to more than $800,000.