District 34 prepares to accomodate budget reductions

Photo by Atticus Ludwig

Inaara Tajuddin, staff reporter

After nearly a year-long five-step process review, the District 34 Board of Education agreed upon budget cuts totaling $1.8 million for Springman and Attea middle schools due to an imbalance between expenditures and revenue.

Dr. Michael Nicholson, District 34 deputy superintendent, explained the necessity of the budget cuts in order to fulfill the middle schools’ policy of keeping the fund balance above 30 percent.

“If we didn’t start reducing our budgets, and we kept continuing on the trajectory that we were on, […] we would be in about four or five years, somewhere between 16 and 20 million dollars in the hole in debt,” Nicholson said. “I say in debt, but we’ll carve that much into what’s called our fund balance, which will take our fund balance below our policy level.”

Principal Dr. Brian Wegley explains that although District 34’s budget has the potential to affect South students, so far he has not seen any major concerns at South due to the budget cuts.

“The staffing cuts that [District 34] have made, and the rearranging that they have done […] [academically] doesn’t have a major impact in what students have access to before they get here,” Wegley said. “I have not seen anything yet that makes me think that it’s going to [have a really] negative impact [on] our students in the upcoming year.”

According to Nicholson, 12.2 positions were cut as a result of budget reductions. Brett Clark, executive director of communications and strategic planning, explained other possible impacts the budget cuts could have on students attending Springman and Attea. According to Clark there were no specific programs cut. However, the school budgets will decrease by 25 percent.

“There was a class size increase,” Clark said. “We changed from a ‘target’ to a ‘flexible cap’ so across the district we increased by one student the number of kids that could be in a classroom. There was a redefinition of the middle school schedule that allows us to schedule time so that teachers have more time to be able to meet with each other and balance those schedules out. There was also the elimination of the technology associate positions at the middle school levels.”

Liz Price, PTA president of Springman and Attea, explains how after being initially surprised by the announcement of the budget cuts, she sees their necessity and is supportive of the decisions made by the district board.

“I personally was supportive of the board making the changes they needed to make; otherwise we would have been in a bad financial situation,” Price said. “Nobody likes to have class sizes increase, nobody like to have things cut, but it had to be done, and I understood that, and I am supportive of what they are doing.”

Nicholson explains that overall, he feels that parents and staff were made aware of the budget cuts and were able to express any concerns they had. He does, however, feel that in the future there should be some changes made.

“One thing I would do, should we do this again, is to bring more people into the proccess sooner,” Nicholson said. “We got a lot of good feedback from stage four this year; I’d like to bring that in sooner to the process.”