Hallsville school board cuts teaching positions, sports, extracurriculars
HALLSVILLE – The Hallsville school board approved an approximate $430,000 in budget cuts Thursday night at the school board meeting.
"Every time you make budget reductions it has an impact on students and their learning, no matter how small the reduction is. As Mr. Bequette said, we worked very hard to try to distribute the cuts across the school district," Interim Superintendent John Downs said.
The budget reductions include more than $25,000 in cuts to activities and $17,000 in cuts to athletic programs. The plan will cut the girls and boys golf program, the high school assistant football coach position, the Art Club sponsor and the Spanish Club sponsor.
“The plan will also eliminate school-sponsored national competitions," the 2016-2017 budget proposal said. "Students will still be allowed to attend and participate, but those groups that qualify will be required to cover all expenses associated with the trip/competition."
Six full-time staff positions will be eliminated if the proposal is passed and staff insurance premiums would increase by $31. The budget proposal says no current staff members will lose their jobs. Instead, open positions won't be filled.
"I don't think any of us in the community are happy about the budget. As I said before, it's not ideal," Jon Bequette, president of the school board, said.
Former Superintendent John Robertson resigned amid talks of budget reductions in February.
Since then, the school board hired a financial advisor and has been working on a financial plan for the 2016-2017 school year. The district put a survey on its website, asking the public about its top budget priorities.
The district has been criticized for spending money on a construction project last year, despite rumored financial problems.
"I know they spent more on the building up there than they ever should and I think the board members should take more interest in what they're approving," Hallsville resident Glenda Castrop said.
Hallsville School District Director of Communications Marci Minor said the project added a new high school wing that has four new classrooms with state of the art technology.
“Our current budget situation isn’t wholly attributable to the costs to finish the construction project," the survey said. "We show a multi-year trend of deficit spending."
Downs said in the budget proposal, “These reductions have become necessary as a means to increasing our operating fund balances toward a healthy level of 20%.”
The survey also said state funding contributes to budget problems.
“As the state continues to underfund public education, the local tax rate becomes especially critical. We have the lowest school levy in the county, and the gaps between our rate and those above us are widening,” the survey said.
There is no current proposal to raise school taxes.
The school board didn't leave much time to debate the budget because board members had to approve a plan before the new fiscal year starts Friday.