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School chief: State budget fails students

August 05, 2009
On paper, it appears that the recently passed two-year state budget will provide Crawford County Community School Corp. slightly more funding in 2010 and 2011 than in 2009, but things aren't always as they appear.

Dr. Mark Eastridge, corporation superintendent, told the school board at its July 21 meeting that Crawford County is projected to receive about $100 more in its 2010 and 2011 general funds, but that includes about $75,000 of special education/preschool monies previously not included in the general fund.

In addition, Eastridge said, school corporations will no longer receive excise tax and other special revenue, but still must contend with annual general operating expense increases as well as even more expensive health insurance premium hikes.

Speaking of the latter, Eastridge said the corporation may be looking at an increase of as much as $400,000 this fall, but he is negotiating with the Crawford County Classroom Teachers Association in hopes of making some changes to bring that number down.

Eastridge said the economic challenges necessitate the corporation "swallow hard" and look at ways to reduce expenses. While none are ideal, he said, the last thing he wants to do is lay-off teachers.

Eastridge's immediate recommendations include not filling the vacant elementary music instructor and Crawford County Junior-Senior High School groundskeeper positions, making the vacant Patoka Elementary School office assistant position part time and moving English Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Ryan Haas to the Title I school-wide position. The latter, he explained, would prevent the corporation from moving an administrator to that position.

The corporation, East-ridge told the board, could do without an official groundskeeper if it continued to have CCJSHS Principal Greg Moe's company take care of the mowing and athletic fields and has current staff do the regular cleaning of the gym, with a substitute taking care of it on game days.

"Are we asking folks to do more with less? Yes," he said, adding, "I think we're going to have to ask" even more in the future because of the budget situation.

Enacting these recommendations would be a good start, Eastridge said. They would result in a savings of $250,000 to $270,000 in the general fund while protecting the corporation's "core values" of giving students a quality education and learning environment, something it's done even more so in recent years as noted by improved ISTEP scores and two of its elementary schools having been honored for educational excellence, he said.

While the corporation will be able to avoid teacher lay-offs for the time being, it may not be able to at some point, Eastridge said.

Before doing so, he said, he will take other actions, including working with the athletic director to determine if coaching costs can be reduced 5 to 10 percent, not filling positions when they come open or making them part time, and continuing to negotiate with the CTA regarding health insurance.

As a last resort, the corporation, Eastridge said, may have to lay off three to seven teachers.

"We're going to try to avoid this, if at all possible," he said.

The board approved Eastridge's immediate recommendations involving Haas, the Patoka Elementary office assistant position and Moe's groundskeeping company by a 6-0 vote (trustee Tim Jellison was absent).

Moe's company, Moe's A+ Cleaning, will be paid $2,400 to maintain the baseball, softball and baseball fields at CCJSHS. This includes fertilizing, aerating and seeding needed areas. Eastridge said the corporation received a quote from another company for $8,000.

Moe's company also will be paid $11 per hour up to 20 hours a week for mowing it has done at the school this summer and will do before the start of school.

In another matter, Eastridge announced the corporation received a grant of $55,000 from the WHAS Crusade for Children Advisory Council. The grant, along with federal stimulus money received by the school, will fund the renovation of the special education area at CCJSHS, he said.

"Now, we've got $205,000 set aside for that project" and none of that is from the corporation's budget, he said.

The WHAS Crusade grant will enable the project to include a kitchen area, cabinets, carpeting in some areas and wiring for technology, said Eastridge, who was given permission by the board to get quotes on those items.

The board also:

•Conducted its annual reorganization meeting.

Debbie Kaiser will remain as president with Donnie Benz as vice president and Tim Jellison as secretary, and the board's annual salary will stay at $2,000 and $65 for additional meetings. Meal expenses will remain at $35 in state and $50 out of state, with trustees receiving the corporation-approved rate for mileage expenses.

Martha Stroud and Pamela Nemeth again will serve as the corporation's treasurer and assistant treasurer, respectively, and the school board will continue to serve as the corporation's board of finance.

The Clarion News and The Corydon Democrat will remain the newspaper publications for official notices.

•Announced that the 2010 budget workshop will be held during the board's regular Aug. 18 meeting, the budget hearing will be at the regular Sept. 15 meeting and the budget adoption will be at the board's regular meeting on Oct. 20, all at the Administration Office at 5805 E. Administration Road in Marengo.

•Approved the following consent agenda items:

—The resignation of Sharon Mitchell as office assistant at Patoka Elementary and permission to post the part-time position.

—Janet Leonard as a summer school teacher at CCJSHS.

—Reliable Propane Gas Inc.'s bid of 0.989 cents — firm fixed one year only — for propane heating fuel for Patoka Elementary.

—An emergency resolution to allow for replacement of a water softener tank at Milltown Elementary.

—April Fraze as junior high school cheerleading coach and Mark Boone as assistant cross country coach.

—Angela Crecelius as the corporation's representative on the Crawford County Public Library Board.

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