Archive for Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Board considers spending requests

March 14, 2006


It'll be at least a month - two months, maybe - before Lawrence school officials know what the district's budget will look like for next year.

The latest projection shows the district taking in an additional $3.2 million in state aid. But that could change.

"We don't know what the dollars are going to be for next year," Supt. Randy Weseman said during a Monday study session before the regular board meeting.

"And it's looking like we won't know for quite a while," he said, referring to the Legislature's deliberations.

But the district's unmet needs are clear. Weseman presented the board with a list of 38 pleas for additional spending. If adopted, the list would cost more than $7 million - not including whatever is to be set aside for teacher salaries.

The list marked the start of budget deliberations for the 2006-07 school year. Big-ticket items included:

¢ $300,000 to $500,000 for all-day kindergarten.

¢ $350,000 for mental health counselors, currently funded by a federal grant that expires this summer.

¢ $143,301 to maintain the Reading First program. It, too, is losing its grant support.

¢ $801,300 for pay raises for classified employees - paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, custodians and secretaries - to be phased in over three years.

¢ $173,351 for after-school programs at Central, South and West junior highs.

¢ $632,604 for 12 additional special education teachers, 10 additional paraprofessionals.

"I don't see anything on here that isn't legitimate," board member Rich Minder said after perusing the list. "But people need to be aware that we're not going to have $7 million."

Board members agreed to begin the process for reviewing the proposals at their March 27 meeting, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The reviews, they said, are likely to take more than one meeting.

"All we can do at this point is set priorities," said board member Sue Morgan.

Board members have said repeatedly that raising teachers salaries has been - and remains - their top priority. Last year, board members plugged an additional $2.9 million into teacher salaries.

Whether a comparable amount is added to next year's budget remains to be seen.

"I can't comment on a specific number because we don't know what the budget is going to look like," said Lawrence Education Assn. President Sam Rabiola. "But, yes, we want a significant increase in salaries." Salary negotiations began last month.

On other matters, the board:

¢ Revisited deliberations on how to resolve ongoing traffic problems around Lawrence High School, especially at the intersection of 19th and Louisiana streets.

¢ Agreed to hire demographic consultants RSP & Associates to handle the district's enrollment projections for the next three years - $17,000 the first year, $15,000 for each of next two.

¢ Gave special education director Bruce Passman the green light to begin recruiting six additional special education teachers for next year.


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