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Archive for Saturday, September 7, 2002

September 7, 2002

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Freeze district hiring.

Eliminate sports programs.

Stop buying textbooks.

Those and other ideas will be floated Monday as the Lawrence school board begins trimming at least another $664,000 from the district's 2002-2003 budget.

An unexpected enrollment decline of about 150 students and a decision by Gov. Bill Graves to scale back state appropriations to public school districts are forcing midyear budget corrections.

"Where we can cut back right now is very limited," Supt. Randy Weseman said Friday.

He said the district would dip into its $1.7 million contingency fund. Perhaps $400,000 of the deficit should be covered by the fund, Weseman said.

"I see it as a savings account," he said. "I'm going to stand on high ground and say that if we take the money now we'll need to pay it back later."

The balance of the rollback would come from a list of options prepared by district administrators. That includes layoffs of nonteaching staff, a districtwide hiring freeze, cancellation of book purchases, slicing 1 percent from district allocations to each school and deletion of athletics programs.

Other ideas: trimming more bus routes, dismissing part-time paraprofessionals, renegotiating business contracts and limiting use of substitute teachers.

Of all the possibilities, Weseman said, tinkering with spring sports programs such as soccer, track, softball, swimming, baseball, golf and tennis would spark the most controversy.

"The board could eliminate the activity," he said. "The likelihood of them going there, I don't know."

The public will get a glimpse of the board's sentiment during a public discussion at its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Weseman said midyear budget adjustments were difficult for public school districts because 80 percent of budgets were tied up in employee contracts.

The task is made more difficult in the Lawrence district because the board already cobbled together $3 million in spending cuts and fee increases to put together the current budget, he said.

Most of the board's previous budget decisions were designed to limit damage to classroom instruction. Weseman said he believed that standard would be harder to uphold in this round.

"I want the board to look at what we can do to be more efficient without sacrificing the integrity of the process," he said.

Weseman said the next governor might order deeper cuts in state spending on public education. There have been rumors of a 3 percent cut, which the superintendent said would prompt massive layoffs of nonteaching staff.

To meet a 3 percent reduction, he said, the district would have to let go half of its 700 paraprofessionals, school aides, secretaries, custodians and other classified staff.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

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