Slater school board met for another budget workshop Monday, March 1 -- the third in the past four weeks -- keeping one close eye on the current budget and one wary eye on the grim budget prospects for next year.
The current budget had to be tweaked a bit to account for a 2 percent cut in state funding.
Superintendent John McEachern told board members he added $109,000 into the revenue side of the ledger to keep the balance on the positive side.
The additional funding was not new money but was from the difference between conservative early estimates and actual revenues expected, according to McEachern.
The board spent more time looking closely at the budget, looking at possibilities for belt-tightening. State education officials have warned superintendents that the grim state budget picture may get worse next year.
One victim of future budget cuts may be summer school.
McEachern noted that, as of this year, the state no longer requires districts to provide summer school, and at a recent meeting of area superintendents few were certain they could offer it.
The plan in Slater for now is to offer a scaled-down version of summer school. Gone will be the various enrichment activities that were included in recent years, McEachern said.
But the district still wants to help students who are behind in reading and other basic academic skills.
He said the district lost about $17,000 on summer school last year.
Teachers have already been informed that summer school will probably be pared down to a "skeletal" form.
"They have been really good about it," he said, noting that teachers have come to him with money-saving ideas. "They can see the picture and how we're trying to work it out."
The district is beginning to explore the possibility of offering online courses, which might be less costly and help compensate for budget cutbacks without losing as many summer classes.
McEachern also suggested a review of two programs hosted by the Marshall school district. Slater currently pays to send students to Saline County High School and Saline County Career Center.
The district has sent few students to SCHS in recent years, he said, and added that he was mulling whether to make attendance at SCCC a privilege open to students whose grades were acceptable at Slater High School.
The board also briefly discussed the tuition level Slater charges for out-of-district students, but McEachern said he is still waiting to hear back from a couple of area schools before he can complete a tuition comparison report.
Slater's tuition, at $3,750 per student, appears to be lower than most area schools, based on preliminary results.
McEachern told the board he will be participating in a meeting of superintendents who are going to provide information to a representative about the effect of the federal No Child Left Behind Act on rural school districts. The representative is expected to testify before a committee in Washington, D.C. on the issue.
Superintendents are concerned that government funding continues to shortchange rural districts, he said.
The board also discussed design options for the new Early Childhood Center with architect Robert Rollings.
Rollings told the board the current design might still fit in the $1.3 million project budget, but he was concerned there wasn't enough cushion in the event bids come in higher than expected.
After discussing a number of options for alternatives -- for example, reducing storage space, having slightly less square footage or eliminating the brick from the rear wall -- Rollings said he was satisfied the board had given him adequate direction to proceed. He said groundbreaking would probably still occur on schedule, expected to be early in June.
Board President Rick Hays and members Jodi Fuemmeler, Robbie Newman, Larry Skinner and Steven Taylor were present.
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