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Board approves budget with $500,000 in cuts

Angie Talken
Chillicothe News

During a special board meeting Monday night the Chillicothe R-II Board of Education approved the budget for the 2020-2021 school year, with $500,000 in cuts and $21.8 million in revenue.

Superintendent Dan Wiebers discussed the cuts made with the board at a meeting last week and said they were necessary to not contour to spend reserve funds. He also cautioned that there is uncertainty in the cuts from state and federal government due to COVID-19 for future budgets.

Cuts to the 2020-2021 budget include the elimination of two bus routes and pre-school transportation, field trips, sponsors for academic clubs and teams, freezing of salaries and cuts in supply costs.

The cuts have allowed the district to place the reserve balance percentage, which is due to cut in expenditures and needed, board member Brent Turner said.

“We need to be sure to realize there may be more cuts to come,” Turner said. “There is no way we can know or even really try to figure out what funding may look like from the state and other funding sources. We have to be prepared to expect more cuts to come.”

Wiebers also noted that the district was able to save $250,000-$260,000 by not filling all employee vacancies or by replacing those who had left the district with a current employee who had a lower rate of pay.

The board also discussed recommendations from the Salary and Welfare Committee which they brought to Wiebers and he then presented to the board. The committee was seeking an increase in general leave days from 10 to 12 days; the ability to use general leave before or after a holiday, with two weeks notice and approval; revise the policy on the order of college hours and degrees. All college hours past first Bachelor's degree count towards salary schedule regardless of sequence or date of classes taken and the district allows substitute teachers to have breakfast and lunch for free the day they are working. The board discussed all the measures, and due to the current financial situation of the district voted to not increase the general leave days. Wiebers noted it could cost the district as much as $30,000 should the majority of employees take the two extra days off, Wiebers said he did not feel all the staff would use the two extra days each year.

“I do not feel in our current financial situation that I can justify this,” School Board President Lauren Horsman said. “There is a lot we could do with $30,000.”

The board agreed to allow staff to use general leave the day before or after a holiday, so long as there was a substitute available and they provide two weeks notice.

The committee also asked for a revision to the policy on the order of college hours and degrees. They are asking all college hours past the first bachelor's degree count towards salary schedule regardless of sequence or date of classes taken. Currently, if a teacher has Master’s level hours and then goes onto to earn a Master’s Degree in another subspeciality, they lose credit for the other classes they have taken on the salary schedule. The board tabled a vote on this item until research could be done to gather information to see the finical impact on the district. Effective the next school year, substitute teachers will be able to have breakfast and lunch for free the days they working.

Work on the district’s new administration building is expected to begin next week. On Monday night the board approved the bid from Weldon Builders and Construction in the amount of $1,760,095. The district is only responsible for $1,000 deductible due to the flooding and destruction of the old administration buildings.