Schools not immune from bad economy
To the Editor:
Everyone is aware of the bad economic cycle we are in. All of us are impacted as citizens and workers. Our schools are not immune from this either. We are looking at cutting $800,000 from our 2009-10 school year general fund budget. The governor has announced his proposal to flat line school budgets for 2010 and 2011. This means that our schools will be actually losing money. How can this be? Inflation causes everything to rise in price. We have a bargaining agreement in place that gives teachers step raises (experience and additional degree work) and we must pay 80 percent of increased health insurance costs as well. Utilities have steadily risen as well as other costs in the general fund.
What have schools been doing to contain costs? All employees have cooperated with our energy education program and we have cut costs in utilities by 20 percent approximately. We've utilized the corn-fired burner that has saved on natural gas costs. We've cut out all but essential travel in the general fund for 2009. Over the past few years we've eliminated five administrative positions. We've also made purchases through our West Central Educational Service Center membership saving many dollars through bulk purchases. Our teachers have participated in helping keep health insurance costs low through the insurance committee.
President Obama's economic stimulus proposal, now under consideration in the U.S. Senate, would give Greencastle Schools $321,400 for Title I and special education costs in 2009. In 2010 this amount would increase to $357,200. Thus would give relief to the general fund for at least two years. The caveat in this grant is for two years only. If the economy and school funding are not improved to make up for this amount, we would be looking at deep cuts for 2011. In year one we would get a one-time amount for construction/remodeling of $244,600. This money would have to be used for the capital projects fund, possibly adding a corn-fired boiler at McAnally and the middle school to help cut utility costs. Please note that these amounts are projections only. These funds come with strings attached. We can't give raises, but can offset Title I and special education costs that we now cover in the general fund.
As a taxpayer I've been leery of the Wall Street "bailouts." For years many people have told me we ought to run schools like a business. I don't think we want Wall Street's model. If Greencastle Schools get any stimulus money we will use it to protect instruction for our children by keeping our teachers emploted.
Greencastle Community Schools