During a committee of the whole meeting, board members talked about reducing per-student aid to 8 Points Charter School and changing the district’s health insurance provider.
The district is currently running on a $2.4 million deficit, but if those options are taken advantage of, it could be bumped down to $1.5 million after the use of contingency funds.
The school board had previously discussed severing ties with the charter school based on an opt-out clause in their contract that focused on a certain annual reduction in state aid. However, chief financial officer Lori Niemeier stated that upon a second look, that was no longer the case.
She says the most the district can do is reduce student-level funding from about $6,300 to $6,000. There are 104 students enrolled this semester.
Niemeier says health insurance is the biggest expense the school district has. The district is currently part of an insurance pool that includes about 30 districts and 10,000 individuals. It may hire a broker to see about the potential savings of leaving the pool.
Niemeier told the board that the 18 percent increase in premiums over the last two years is due to a $14 million claims-related deficit in the insurance pool.
No cuts were made or voted on last night. Interim superintendent Dr. Barbara Suelter, who was conducting her first full meeting, says when that happens depends on what’s potentially being eliminated.
“If we should have to cut staff, we have a time frame that the school code establishes for that, and we have to meet it,” Suelter says. “Some of the others can be made at a later point in time, so probably by the February regular board meeting, we will have to be finalizing any staff cuts that will occur. Some of the other cuts may be able to be handled clear into March and even April.”
School board president Mindy Olson says the next round of budget cuts will be done differently than in the past.
“We’re really taking individual items and really analyzing each area and looking at it, and we’re going to look at the impact to the students and look at the impact on the budget compared to just having a list and saying, ‘Here it is, here’s what we can save, do you want to do it or not?’ So, I think it’s going to be a little more interactive,” says Olson.
“A lot more information, more analytical. I think it’s going to give us as board members and the public a clearer picture of what actually goes into our budget and what even a little minor $35,000 savings can mean in the overall budget.”
A meeting will happen next Thursday to continue budget cut discussions.
The school board was informed that about $19,000 in savings was produced from the district’s ongoing early retirement incentive for this school year. The program netted about $95,000 last year.
Other action items last night included the approval of Sara Lee to provide bakery products to the school district this semester. It had been looking for a new bread provider since Hostess shut down production late last year.
The board also approved a new policy dealing with delinquent debt recovery. It will allow District 117 to work with the state comptroller’s office through the Local Debt Recovery Program started last fall.