Atlantic School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Amstein, Monday, recommended cuts in staffing and other areas amounting to more than $755,000. On Feb. 8th, the School Board heard from Iowa Association of School Boards Finance Support Co-Director Gary Sinclair, with regard to district finances for the past five-years. In his presentation, he recommended the district try to find ways to cut $700-thousand dollars as a means of improving its financial health.
During Monday night’s Board meeting, Amstein proposed six areas where the District could save $675,965. The first recommendation was to make across-the-board cost reductions for all departments, amounting to $185,146. Amstein said 12 teachers have accepted the District’s Early Retirement package, which saves the District $382,983. Reducing the Level 3 Behavioral Program by two Para positions would save another $41,814.
Other cuts include reducing the Atlantic Middle School At-Risk Reading position, the elimination of a Testing Para position and Summer School Transportation, for an additional savings of $66,022. Eight additional reductions and costing savings the Board could consider amount to $208, 961, for a total of $884,926. Of the eight additional cost saving measures, Amstein recommended the Board consider reducing the budget for Substitute Teachers and reducing the textbook budget, Utilize current staff to teach FCS at the Middle School, and reducing the Para contract hours to 35 hours, which would save $113,748 altogether.
Board member Dennis Davis and Phil Hascall both said they would have a problem reducing the Middle School At-Risk position. Amstein said that wasn’t on his original list of recommendations, but it was added by personal request from the instructor. Haskell said he feels uncomfortable reducing the position after having seen the dramatic improvements of the students in the program. Davis said he doesn’t want to “Nickel and Dime” the budget now and have to come back later in the year to add more hours or hire additional personnel to fill the district’s needs.
Board President Kristy Pellett said “Certainly there will be cuts that affect students,” but the effects will be minimal because of early retirements. She was however concerned about the generalization of the “Across all departments” cuts…which she says is vague. Amstein says any amount other than salaries can be reduced depending on need, but there may be monies left over from areas such as snow removal, of which only 1/2 of what was budgeted for has been used.
Those areas which appear to be safe from the budget axe, include the elimination of a SAM position at Washington Elementary, elimination of an ELL position at the High School and the At-Risk Advocate position at the Middle School, along with the postponement of swimming and bowling activities.
The total cuts, if approved by the Board during their meeting on May 12th, amount to $755,965. Amstein said the proposed cuts still give the districts “Some wiggle room,” while hitting the target cost saving goal proposed by Gary Sinclair.