Oskaloosa USD 341 school board may dip into reserves
by Dennis Sharkey
Members of the Oskaloosa USD 341 have gotten use to cutting the budget the last couple of springs but some may have developed an appetite for eating some of the district’s reserves.
“There is an appeitite to cut into that i’ts just what percentage,” Superintendent Jon Pfau said about the willingness of board members to use contingency reserve funds to supplement the budget. “We’ve got it almost maxed out so we feel pretty good about the balance,” he added.
The only fear of the board is replacing contingency funds that have been built up over the past four years. When board members took an effort to begin saving four years ago the fund was at about $50,000.
Now the fund is more than $375,000.
One way the board has been able to maintain the fund is through heavy cuts two years ago and modest cuts last year.
Two years ago the board cut more than $269,000 from the budget and about $38,000 from last year’s budget.
The district’s contingency fund was greatly challenged last year when the state cut base state aid at three different times during the school year and Gov. Sam Brownback-R, has proposed a cut to this year’s budget and next year’s budget by $157 per pupil.
USD 341 will have to find $73,000 to make up the cuts in next year’s budget. Declining enrollment will also hit the district for more than $30,000 next year. Pfau is predicting the district will have the same carry over of about $170,000.
Pfau prepared a preliminary list of potential cuts to board members earlier this month. Board members will digest the numbers and dicuss them next Wednesday, April 6, before taking any potential action at their regular meeting April 11.
By law school boards must inform teachers if they intend not to renew their contracts for the next school year by May 1. Last year the deadline was extended by lawmakers by a couple of weeks.
Pfau did note to board members earlier this month that if they are looking at cuts to the high school or middle school budgets they could be deep.
“A person is a program and a program is a person,” Pfau said.
Two years ago there were cuts in every department and two activities, bowling and cross country, were eliminated. He said finding cuts in activities is something low in the list of possibilities.
“We’ve certainly have done that recently and would like to stay away from that,” he said.
Pfau said the district will have to find more than $150,000 in savings if the governor’s plan is approved.
Despite the appetite for using reserve funds Pfau did say that some staffing or programming cuts could happen.
“I do think it could be very moderate,” he said. “I just don’t know where that line is.”
The elementary school could see two retirements next year that Pfau said could be absorbed through larger class sizes. He also believes about $10,000 can be saved in replacing Elementary Principal Darren Shupe.
Pfau also told board members that the district has to also be mindful of carrying too much cash and causing a further burden on the tax payers.
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