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Board looking for ways to save

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By Molly Haines

As the time to adopt a 2010-2011 Owen County School District budget narrows down, the lack of a state budget and possible position cuts are still major concerns.

The Owen County School Board held a working budget session Thursday.

Terry Patterson, chairman of the school board, said the budget issues facing the board are not unlike those facing other districts throughout the state.

“We’re not immune to what’s going on,” Patterson said during the meeting. “Not only is this happening statewide, but we’re seeing it nationwide. The decisions we’ll look at are what we feel will be best for the students of Owen County.”

During the meeting, Owen County School District Finance Officer Sheila Miller discussed possible changes to the 2010-2011 budget with the board and addressed many questions posed by them.

Miller also said the Owen County Board of Education is facing issues that many others are currently dealing with.

“We’re not doing anything any differently than any other district across the state,” Miller said. “Any time you mess with positions, people get upset. It’s something that no one wants to see, but it sometimes happens. What we have to do is look at the situation and say, ‘what can we do to save as many positions as possible?’”

Miller said positions with grants are generally looked at first when discussing position cuts.

“When looking at a position with a grant, we also have to look at whether or not that teacher is tenured,” Miller said. “If a teacher is tenured, then they typically bump the last one in, someone who was hired this year.”

Miller said three positions, one full-time and two part-time, are covered by a drop-out prevention grant.

“They knew when they were hired that the grant only lasted two years,” Miller said. “They knew there was a chance that they could be transferred or non-renewed.”

Miller said the Reading First federal grant that has lasted for seven years is also over with this year. The grant pays for one reading coach for Kindergarten through third grade.

A health-aide position at the middle school is also under consideration.

“We have a district paid registered nurse at the high school,” Miller said. “We have two Three Rivers registered nurses, one at the primary school and one at the elementary school, and a health-aide at the middle school. We’re looking at the possibility of whether or not we can have one nurse serving the middle and high school again.”

Miller said office substitutes will likely be cut for the 2010-2011 year.

“We pay for substitutes to help with the constant flow of teachers and students that come through the office when anyone in a front office position is out,” Miller said.

When the 2007 state budget was passed, an attachment to the bill changed the number of school days from 185 to 187.

Miller said because a state budget has not been passed for 2010-2011, the board is able to plan for 185 days.

“If the state comes back and mandates that districts must have a 187 day calendar, then we will have to amend,” Miller said. “We are proceeding with the adoption of a 185 day calendar at this point.”

The board normally buys two buses a year, but this year it is considering not purchasing any buses.

“We try to buy two buses a year,” Miller said. “We can go for one year without purchasing new buses but that’s not something that we can continue to do year after year or we’ll have unsafe buses out on the road.”

Miller said $10,000 at the middle school and $20,000 at the high school could be cut from non-revenue sports money.

“That money has been there for several years and it covers sports that don’t have a big gate to sustain them,” Miller said. “If that happens those programs will have to do more fund-raising for their program needs. These sports haven’t always relied on that money because we’ve only been doing this for several years.”

Miller listed volleyball and softball as examples of sports that receive the money.

Miller said the normal classroom set of furniture that is bought each year for each school is likely to be cut.

An $8,000 expenditure which is used for random drug testing at the middle and high-school level will be cut by $6,000.

Miller said although a new middle school is being built, funding for construction of the new school is separate from the general fund.

“The general fund does not cover new schools,” Miller said. “The building fund is completely different from the general fund and the two cannot be mixed.”

Miller said an estimated $1.2 million dollars could be carried over into the 2010-2011 general fund with approximately $200,000 in franchise taxes that has yet to be collected.

The Owen County Board of Education expects to vote on a budget during its regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30 p.m. May 17.