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Board looks to make budget cuts due to $5 million deficit

Sophia Goldberg sports editor

With recommendations from Chief Administrative Officer La-Tanya Kirk-Carter, the board is looking into making $5 million cuts to the budget for the 2016-17 school year, with an additional $4 million projected deficit in budgets for the next two years.

The board has done research as to which areas of the current budget they can pull funds from in order to limit the problems currently surrounding the budget crisis. The board is looking into either cutting or combining classes with low enrollment, possibly changing the structure of the four middle schools or making cuts in other areas of the budget.

During a special board meeting on Jan. 5, board president Mel Spitz demonstrated to his fellow board members why it is necessary to reduce expenditures by $5 million for this year’s budget. According to Spitz, the purpose of these expenditures is to correct the instability in the budget that has become “chronic.”

“Over the past several years, our school district has operated with an annual deficit, meaning we’ve been spending more money then comes in. When you do that, what has to happen is you are depleting your reserves. This has become what you might call as a structural, in other words chronic, deficit. In those cases, a lot of those expenditures have a strange character: the expense item increases in amount as time goes on,” Spitz said.

Former superintendent Steve Kessler stated that these projected deficits always occur, but that the board must review the budget each year and make sure that fiscal stability is maintained.

“Every year, the board has always been faced with these fiscal realities. It’s up to the board each year, in my mind, to look at where we’re at, what our current expenditures are, and make changes so we don’t go crazy as a district,” Kessler said.

Kessler mentioned that even though the district has $9.2 million in reserves, the board needs to make changes to the district’s expenses in order to avert any future problems that might arise.

“The fact is if we continue deficit spending the way we do today for the next three years without making any changes, we would be in a lot of financial difficulty,” Kessler said.

Kirk-Carter first drafted the budget with a necessary $5 million reduction to alert the board that changes were necessary. She, however, believes the budget reductions do not need to come from district employee salaries, an area from which the board has looked into cutting. Rather, the $5 million could be compiled by limiting school field trips or hiring processes until the budget’s shortage has been offset.

Kirk-Carter does not agree with the methods of how the board explained the projected deficits to the community.

“What the board is doing right now is scaring the community. That is not how a business manager would function,” Kirk-Carter said. “You don’t do that to the community and to your constituency, because no one would believe you.”

The board met on Thursday, Feb. 9, in the John Cherney Lecture Hall to further discuss what cuts to make to the budget.

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