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Archive for Tuesday, January 21, 1992

BUDGET CUTS ALTER SCHOOL OPERATIONS

January 21, 1992

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It was last summer that the Lawrence school board approved $975,400 in general fund cuts and cost-savings, but it is now that district administrators, teachers and principals are feeling the impact of that move.

Fewer substitutes for secretaries and custodians, fewer teacher aides for large elementary school classes and a request for fewer long-distance phone calls are affecting the day-to-day operations of Lawrence public schools.

"We've all had to keep an eye on our instructional budgets, printing budgets in particular," said Randy Weseman, principal at South Junior High School.

The school board, in response to a $2.6 million drop in state aid to the district, cut the district's instructional supplies budget by 10 percent as one way to reduce spending.

"At our last faculty meeting, we talked about planning well and not using paper unnecessarily," Weseman said. "The rule of thumb is to use both sides of the paper. We've saved a lot of money that way."

ALSO, THE junior high schools lease copy machines, and the lease agreements allow each school to run only so many copies throughout the school year before photocopying costs come out of the school's instructional fund. For that reason, teachers often are moved to make dittos instead of photocopies.

Weseman said his school and others have been especially affected by a new district policy: If a school has more than one secretary, a substitute cannot be hired for an ill secretary until the third day of absence.

"It's pretty hard to run an office if you don't have people," Weseman said.

The same substitute hiring policy applies to custodians.

The board voted to save $50,000 by hiring fewer substitutes for secretaries, teacher aides and custodians. Figures comparing this year's spending in that area to last year's indicate that the new district policies could be making a difference.

CRAIG FIEGEL, the district's director for business and facilities, said spending for certified and classified substitutes was $157,175 through December of this year, compared with $175,268 through December of last school year.

Fiegel said fewer illnesses could be part of the reason for this year's lower figure.

The school board also approved a 20 percent reduction in long-distance telephone expenditures. To date, the district's total telephone charges have amounted to about $44,400, compared with about $45,900 at the same time last year, Fiegel said.

Fiegel said district staff members have been asked to keep an eye on their long-distance calls. Even if someone receives a long-distance call in the middle of other business, the person is encouraged to take the call so that it won't have to be returned at the district's expense, Fiegel said.

Fiegel said long-distance calls represent only about 20 percent of the district's telephone costs. Most other costs are fixed, such as those that come with individual phone lines, he said.

OTHER PEOPLE also have been affected by the budget cuts:

In a move to cut spending on teacher aides, or paraprofessionals, by $100,000, the board raised the number of students that a grade school teacher must have in order to have the assistance of a paraprofessional.

However, at the request of teachers and parents, the board in September partially rescinded the policy, making the required number of students somewhat lower than what had been approved in the cost-cutting measure.

As a way to bring in about $7,000 more in revenue, the district raised its school building rental fees for the first time in several years. At the Jan. 13 board meeting, officials with the Salvation Army complained that the new fees had increased the cost of the organization's Biddy basketball program.

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