Farwell BOE mulls cuts, face $600k deficit

May 9, 2014

By Pat Maurer

Farwell has to cut $644,000 to balance the budget for the 2014-15 school year.

The coming year’s budget led the agenda items for Monday evening’s Farwell Board of Education meeting.

Superintendent Carl Seiter presented board members with a list of “potential cost saving measures” at the meeting, urging them to prioritize them and let him know if they have other ideas that would help the district save money.

“We have been trying to maintain (programs and teachers) for several years,” he said, “since the State cut $400 from the foundation allowance four years ago.”

He continued, “We have been deficit spending ever since.”

Last year’s loss of 58 students hit the district hard with a $369,367.20 loss in State funding. Because of the loss, the board implemented cuts mid-year including elimination of the Assistant Principal, Middle School Counselor and Assistant Athletic Director. They also agreed to a three-party contract for the School Liaison Officer with the Village and Surrey Township, cutting those costs by two-thirds. Those changes saved the district about $130,000 for the remainder of this year, but they still ended up having to use more than 60 percent of the district’s fund equity to balance the budget, dropping it from just over a million to a little over $400,000.

Seiter reported that the district lost another 35 students in the spring count.

Even using all of the district’s $420,000 fund balance wouldn’t be enough to cover the excess in expenditures over revenues for the coming year, and the State requires a balanced budget. “We have to adopt a budget by July 1,” Seiter told the board Monday.

His list of potential cuts, which would cut expenditures by $722,000, included:

* the Choice rooms in all three buildings,

* the Liaison Officer,

* transportation and athletics reductions,

* elimination of non-Title 1 para-pros,

*replacing retiring teachers with new teachers at lower salaries,

*not replacing an elementary retirement,

*elimination of the Chinese Immersion Program

*not replacing the 7th grade social studies position, filling it with an existing teacher,

*cutting the Middle School Assistant Principal position,

*high school/Timberland layoff or not replacing a teacher,

*cutting the high school athletic director,

*eliminating the board secretary position.

Seiter also included a reduction in Messa Insurance rates and suggested “Pay for play athletics” as possible savings for the district. He said some of the teacher reductions would mean larger class sizes.

Seiter stressed, “These are just ‘potential’ cuts, things we could cut with the least amount of impact to students and teachers.”

He continued, “We have to look hard at some programs, some may have to go. How do we make the cuts that would affect teachers and students the least? We have to stop deficit spending for the good of the district.”

“If we can trim $600,000 from the budget,” he said, “it would leave a $400,000 fund equity, and we may need that if the student count goes down again in the fall.”

Board member Duffy Doxtader objected to several of the items in Seiter’s list including the liaison officer and increased class sizes that would result from a reduction of the teaching staff. “As long as there is a fund equity, I’m not in favor of any reductions,” he said.

Irene Sullivan said, “I have a different position than Duffy on the liaison officer.” She questioned how many students attend because of the Chinese Immersion classes.

“We need to move on this soon,” Seiter said, “I need to let the staff know if there is a potential for layoff, so they aren’t blindsided.”

John Gross said, “How do we come together for the district’s common goal of surviving?”

“There’s no fat left to trim, Seiter said, “There are no more any easy cuts that do not affect the kids.”

He has asked the administrators to come back with their own plans to cut costs. He urged board members to call him with their thoughts.

Other business at Monday’s meeting included accepting the resignation of Marla Blain, approval of an overnight trip for 4 to 5 members of the Boy’s Golf Team and the renewal of the food service contract with Chartwells.

Seiter said three students earned the “Turn Around Award,” Dru Smedley, Lauren Eigner and Jacob Eigner.

He also said because of the amount of snow days, school would continue through the first week of June with a half-day on June 6.

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