by nathan oster
Big Horn County School District No. 3 has scheduled a May 2 town hall-style meeting on four specific cost-cutting aspects of its plan to balance its budget for the 2016-17 school year. The hearing starts at 5:30 p.m. at the central office meeting room.
Supt. Barry Bryant has said that at least $158,000 will need to be cut, citing the estimated loss of nearly $80,000 in state funding as one of the primary reasons. It could turn out to be more, he said, noting that the final numbers won’t be available until June.
At their April 12 meeting, school board members finalized salary and benefit changes for the district’s classified and certified employees. Cumulatively, they represent an increase of approximately 78,000 in the school district budget.
The board followed the recommendations of its salary and benefits committee to allow movement on the steps and lanes for certified staff, movement on the steps for classified staff and an increase in pay of 1 percent, or $600, for those not on the scale.
Even by allowing the movement and raises, however, most school district employees are going to see a pay cut, due to a 6 percent increase in their insurance premiums. Employees will be shouldering the full burden of the insurance increases; the district-paid portion isn’t going to change. Given that, the only employees who will see a net increase in pay, Bryant said, are those who can move of the pay scale or those who are not enrolled in the district’s insurance plan.
Also on April 12, the school board followed Bryant’s recommendation regarding the hiring of classified staff employment for the 2016-17 school year. Bryant’s recommendation was to not offer employment to two part-time food service workers — one currently working at the elementary school, the other at the secondary cafeteria — as part of a larger plan to consolidate the two kitchens.
The public will have an opportunity on May 2 to comment on that food service staff reduction plan, as well as a proposed schedule change that would impact all three buildings, cuts to the pay of some activity sponsors and a reduction in the area of transportation.
“None of the four is set in stone,” said Bryant, adding that the board is expected to consider them at its May meeting.
The food service budget has for years been a vexing issue for the school district, as Bryant and the board have sought to bring expenses more in line with revenues. It’s not going to happen this year, as Bryant estimated Tuesday that the district is going to end up in the hole yet again, to the tune of about $135,000.
The district is averaging about 350 meals served each day, and 65 percent of those are served at the elementary school. While the kitchen at the Buff Gym cafeteria has more room and better refrigeration units than the elementary school, the plan as it stands now is to cook the food at the elementary school and transport it to the Buff Gym cafeteria.
A consultant from the state is going to be visiting the schools in the coming weeks to offer input on the proposed change.
“Based on the numbers, I don’t see how you can justify two kitchens,” said Bryant.
One of the part-time workers puts in three hours a day, the other five hours a day.
If the plan is implemented, most of the four remaining full-time food service workers would be based at the elementary school.
Bryant said he’s researched the cost of transporting the food and that he doesn’t anticipate it being a great expense.
Other changes in food service have already been implemented, as the district is shopping around for better deals on food and has begun charging adult employees to eat lunch at the school ($4 per meal).
Combined, all of these measures are expected to save the district about $25,000.
Bryant’s recommendation includes $10,000 in cuts to the district’s various activity sponsors.
Because they took some sharp cuts of their own in 2009-10, the coaches who lead the various sports teams in the district wouldn’t be impacted by this round of cuts, said Bryant.
He said his recommendation came after a study of what other districts were paying their activity sponsors. In many cases, he said the Greybull district has been paying far more than the state average and that his recommendations will result in significant savings over the course of the next three budget years.
The activity sponsors who would see cuts include: the director and assistant directors of the fall musical, the director of the spring play and those staffers currently leading Academic Challenge, high school music, high school senate, high school yearbook, National Honor Society, high school science fair, Skills USA, FBLA, Art Club, History Club, Spanish Club, junior and senior class sponsors, middle school senate, middle school science fair, middle school science Olympiad and elementary music. In almost all cases, the advisors would be making $1,000 or less by the time all of the cuts are implement in 2018-19.
One change in the area of activity’s isn’t Bryant’s doing. Washakie County has informed the district that it will begin charging students who wish to participate on Worland teams in the sports that aren’t offered at GHS.
Greybull students have been participating in swimming, soccer and cross country at WHS.
Bryant said his recommendation is for the students who wish to participate, rather than the district, to bear those costs. The anticipated fee ranges from a low of $175 per person for cross country to a high of $425 per person for indoor track. For soccer, the fee would be $375, and for swimming, $350.
Schedule and transportation
The school district is proposing changes in the schedule for all three buildings which would result in a savings of $25,000 in transportation costs, according to Bryant.
“We’ve been talking about it for a few months now,” he said.
The plan would ad 20 minutes to each school day at the elementary and 25 minutes to each school day at the middle and high schools. The district is currently running buses that leave after school, after Buff Time and at the end of each activity. Under the proposed recommendation, Buff Time would be consolidated into the regular school day, eliminating the need for one of the buses.
Among the other things being discussed in the area of transportation cuts are a re-doing of routes, absorbing a retirement by not adding staff, limiting trips and only allowing substitute drivers to drive activity buses.
As part of its plan to cut $158,000, the district is also planning the following changes:
- $5,000 cuts to each building budget as well as to the central office ($20,000 savings).
- The discontinuation of national travel contributions by the district ($8,000 savings). Students who are selected to attend national events, be it FBLA or ISEF, can still attend, but will need to raise all of the funds themselves in order to do so, Bryant said.
- $20,000 cut to the maintenance/custodial budget.
- $25,000 cut to the technology budget.
The district is also planning to dip into its reserves, by about $25,000, to balance the budget.
Bryant warned the board that more cuts will likely be needed next year due to a drop in enrollment and further cuts in state funding.