IRSD considers cuts to teacher raises, club advisors, more

Date Published: 
March 24, 2017

Budget cuts are coming to the Indian River School District. Even with an additional $7.5 million annual income in local property taxes, thanks to the recently passed current-expense referendum, IRSD staff expect to trim at least $5 million from next year’s budget. And that’s in addition to expected state budget cuts.

“I’ll be honest — we have cut these budgets to bare bones, because we really need to get it down to a point we can [live with],” said IRSD Business Director Jan Steele.

Many programs already receive state or federal funds, but the school board is just looking to reduce the local dollars, which are more flexible, said LouAnn Hudson, director of instruction.

District staff made some initial suggestions to reduce just the local expenses by more than $1.7 million in the 2018-fiscal-year budget. The board of education asked questions at their March 21 special meeting but made no decisions.

One suggestion was to reduce pay for club advisors and athletic coaches. By cutting $225,000 from Nonathletic Extra Pay for Extra Responsibilities (EPER), the student clubs would have to rely heavily on advisors willing to work after school on a volunteer basis. Or perhaps some clubs could move to empty time periods in some school days, such as Indian River High School’s Pride Period.

Would band teachers, for instance, be expected to do parades and football games as part of their salary? Board Member James “Jim” Fritz asked.

Yes, answered Director of Personnel Celeste Bunting.

Some extra-curriculars aren’t affected by the proposed cuts, since business, agri-science and teaching curricula require a professional student group, such as the Business Professionals of America, Future Farmers of America or the forthcoming Future Teachers of America.

The IRSD could save $185,000 by reducing paid athletic staff to four coaches for football and two for sports that already have two, plus one for other teams. Schools may also split that funding amongst more coaches.

By reducing summer work days for school counselors, reading specialists, nurses, teacher mentors and other specialists, the district could save $384,000. But those staff must be notified by mid-May that their hours will decrease.

The IRSD could also reduce training and travel expenses. They could move some money around or adjust programs to be eligible for state or federal funding, such as IRHS’s Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program, which is transforming into a broader Allied Health curriculum.

The staff proposed reductions to funding for the Math League, Ingram Pond, the Performing Arts Fund for low-income students and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), which helps improve academic skills.

The high schools have already considered passing on to students tuition fees for the dual-enrollment college courses at IRHS and International Baccalaureate at Sussex Central High School. Other school districts even have parent booster clubs for IB, which can cost students hundreds of dollars per year.

Some programs that use little or no local funds would remain unchanged, such as ExCEL and Academic Challenge.

Staff also proposed $269,000, or about 30 percent, in cuts to schools’ discretionary budgets. The IRSD could also remove the $130,000 in long-term disability coverage that they offer, but never use, since the state offers a better option at no cost.

A moratorium on new sports uniforms would save $75,000, although teams can fundraise or seek sponsorships. The IRSD can’t cut pay for sports referees or travel. But it turns out that some nearby schools refuse to play IRSD because of the ranking system, so IRSD teams are traveling to Baltimore and Pennsylvania to fill the schedule. Board members suggested asking other districts and the DIAA to encourage geographically-closer partnerships.

Other cuts could include curriculum ($194,113), Board of Education ($14,000) and fleet vehicles ($10,000).

In all, the proposed savings were $1,719,275 in salary, programs and other budget costs.

The board could also consider saving $1.1 million by spreading the teachers’ already-scheduled 5 percent salary increases over several years instead.

They’ll also consider reducing safety personnel at G.W. Carver and the Georgetown complex, although money approved in the referendum would still improve safety features, such as broken locks, glass reinforcement, bus cameras and more.

“The uncertain thing is what the State is going to do,” Jan Steele said.

Major cuts were expected when Gov. John Carney’s proposed budget was to be released on Thursday, March 23, (after Coastal Point press time).

Board Members Donald Hattier, Douglas Hudson and James “Jim” Hudson were absent from the March 21 meeting.

Administrator finances were discussed during executive session, since each administrator’s contract is negotiated individually.

The board is expected to continue the discussion at the regular board of education meeting on Monday, March 27, at 7 p.m. at Indian River High School. Meeting agendas are online at www.boarddocs.com/de/irsd/Board.nsf.