School board trims budget

In open hearings prior to the start of the regular meeting Monday evening, the Broken Bow School Board presented the proposed 2011-2012 budget and final tax request. Later in the meeting, both were approved. This budget presented a huge challenge for the board, as with most schools the district is losing a significant amount of dollars in state aid. Even with the loss of about $800,000 in state aid, the board was able to trim more than $400,000 from this years budget over last years. That, says board president Michelle Zlomke, was completely the work of the administration and staff of the district. In his comments to the board, high school principal Ken Kujath also commended the staff for their diligence in cutting budget requests for this year. “My concern in these teachers will still get those supplies, they will just come out of their own pockets. Any you can only do that for so long,” he said. The approved budget for 2011-12 is $12,361,678, which passed unanimously. Dan Zach, accountant for the district, was on hand to explain the budget request and answer any questions from the board or the public regarding the budget. “With the loss in state aid you need to start picking up additional revenue or reduce costs - and you have done both,” Zach told the board. “I think this is a closer examination of the budget than I have ever seen,” said board member Don Davis. Board member John Evans added, “I felt this time we were on the offensive instead of the defensive. We saw the cuts coming and got in front of it.” “Our goal was to maintain quality programs in the most cost-effective manner possible,” said Superintendent Virginia Moon. The approved tax request for 2011-2012 is $5,380,719. That is a 6.9 percent increase over last years tax request, which is exactly the same increase as the 2010-2011 request. Board member Matthew Haumont was the lone no vote on the tax request. The total tax levy is $1.13, which includes the general fund, special building fund and medical insurance bond fund. After deducting exclusions from voluntary term agreement, the insurance bond fund and the county treasurer 1 percent exclusion, the levy is at $1.05. Zach again noted the challenges the district faced with this budget and tax request due to a 10 percent decrease in revenue from state aid. In order to trim the budget cuts were made in major purchases, technology, personnel and building and department budgets. Some of those specific cuts include:human resources - reduction of hours, limited overtime, reduction of contracted services, reduction of number of positions and shared employees with other districts. The reduction of positions does not actually come from jobs being cut, but rather from vacated positions not being refilled. Building budgets and department budgets were cut by 10-15 percent or more. The technology department will delay major purchases for this year, and along with the school improvement team will develop a 5-year technology plan for hardware replacement, software licenses and labs vs one-on-one at the high school. Zach also commended the board in their ability to consistently contribute to the building fund, which currently has $454,000. In breaking down the 2011-2012 general fund budget of $9,275,748 revenue by source, slightly more than half comes from property tax. The rest comes from state aid, other local tax sources, other state sources, federal sources and transfers. Copies of the 2011-2012 budget are available at the superintendent’s office at the high school. In other business, principals Kujath and Kim Jonas presented NeSA and ACT test scores and results to the board along with comparisons of where the district rates to the state averages. Carolyn Troxel and Allison Jonas presented a school improvement update, and talked about how they plan to use the testing data to better serve students in the classroom. The 2011-12 classified staff handbook was approved, as was the certified staff evaluation process. This new evaluation process was a labor-intensive project for the principals, and is far advanced from many schools the size of Broken Bow. Dr. Moon praised her principals for their hard work on this project. Dr. Moon was authorized by the board to apply for the Poverty Plan funds for 2012-2013. These funds are allowances in addition to state aid to be used for specific students or programs. The funds will be used for the on-going support of the E-learn program. Approval was also given authorizing Dr. Moon to apply for LEP (limited English proficiency) Plan funds for 2012-2013. These funds are the same concept as the poverty plan funds. The board adjourned into closed session for the purpose of discussing contract negotiations. No action was taken following the closed session. The next meeting of the Broken Bow Board of Education will be Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.