STERLING – Sterling Public Schools Superintendent Tad Everett presented a list of proposed cuts for fiscal year 2015, the third phase in the district's 3-year initiative to balance its education fund, at Wednesday's board meeting.
The plan was developed in 2012 to address a $1.8 million education fund deficit. The original plan was to cut $600,000 in each of the 3 years, but several factors threw that plan off course, Everett said.
"Little did we know we would face a recession of this magnitude," Everett said. "The biggest factor, though, was when the state prorated general state aid. We've had $2.3 million less in revenue in the last 2 years."
The state prorated aid at 89 percent in fiscal year 2013, and 88.7 percent for fiscal year 2014.
Local EAV also decreased in both those fiscal years, costing the district a total of $101,000. There also has been a $3.4 million loss since 2010 in the employee benefit plan.
The proposed cuts for the third year would include the reduction in force of two special education teachers and the loss of 10 additional positions.
The board approved the dismissal of the two special education teachers, Carol Ann Cooper and Kelli Cecchetti, at Wednesday's meeting. The rest of the positions will be cut through attrition – either retirements or resignations. Some grades are also slated to see a reduction in sections.
The two dismissals were the only action taken on the proposed fiscal year 2015 cuts.
The proposal also includes savings from taking over the prekindergarten program from Bi-County Special Education Cooperative, and reducing the number of students who attend the Whiteside Area Career Center.
"While we understand and respect the process we went through with Bi-County, we decided to take over the entire pre-K special education program," Everett said.
Taking over that program is projected to save about $65,000 a year. It also would allow some staff to be saved by moving them to that program, which would be housed at Franklin Elementary School, Everett said.
The savings from the proposed cuts in the final year of the initiative are projected to be $856,886. An estimated $850,000 reduction in spending in 2015 was needed to balance the education fund. Spending was cut by $769,000 in the first year, and by $1,072,821 in the second year of the initiative.
Some members of the Sterling Education Association were at the meeting and spoke on behalf of the organization.
"We want you to know we really do appreciate the efforts to reduce the number of RIFs this year," one of the members told the board.
While Everett said he was proud of the work that staff has put into working toward a balanced budget, it has been a difficult period for the district.
"We have lost 43 certified people in the last 4 years, and the emotion of it has been gut-wrenching," Everett said. "That also means that the people still here are doing more work and many of them with bigger classes. What we've had to do to get here doesn't feel good."
In other action, three fee increases were approved for fiscal year 2014-2015. There will be a $50 increase in the grades 9-12 registration fee, a $5 increase in the performing arts fees, and 10-cent hike in in lunch fees.
Also, Sterling Schools Foundation Board of Directors members Paul Osborn, Heather Sotelo, Gloria Grant, Kristie Geil, and Marilyn Henry were each appointed to another 4-year term.
The board also approved a resolution to enter into a 4-year lease agreement with Apple Inc. The company will provide computers, a protection plan, software, and training for the high school's one-to-one computer initiative. The entire initiative is being funded by the Dillon Foundation. At the end of the lease agreement, the district will own the computers.
The board went to closed session for two matters – one related to personnel and the other to collective bargaining.
Total projected savings from proposed cuts: $856,886
– Cut 1 district office administrative position
– Take over the Bi-County prekindergarten program
– Cut 1 Challand Middle School vocal music position
– Cut 1 secretary position
– Cut 4 special education teacher positions
– Cut 1 Lincoln Elementary teacher position
– Cut 1 Jefferson Elementary teacher position
– Cut 1 Franklin Elementary teacher position
– Reduce number of students that attend WACC
– Cut 1 high school social studies teacher
– Cut 1 high school receptionist/registrar position
* Note: All but the two special education teachers cut Wednesday, would be positions cut through attrition.