Hayden School District looks at larger shortfall | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden School District looks at larger shortfall

Survey will help School Board make decisions about cuts

Jack Weinstein

— The Hayden School District is looking at having to cut as much as a half-million dollars in its 2010-11 budget.

The district initially had projected a $300,000 shortfall, but statewide cuts to K-12 education rumored to be near 10 percent — after the initial estimate of 6 percent — continue to increase the amount Hayden will have to cut in next school year's budget.

Hayden High School Princ­ipal Troy Zabel presented the School Board on Wednesday night with an update about the district budget committee's progress to create a survey to distribute to staff, parents and community members. The survey would help the district's administration team make budget recommendations to board members.

Part of Zabel's presentation included a breakdown of the budget that was given to members of the district budget committee to help them better understand the process.

It included worst-, middle- and best-case scenarios.

The worst included cuts of more than $526,000 with the majority being a 10 percent, or $360,399, reduction in state funding. It also included estimates for increases in benefits, including retirement ($15,000) and health insurance ($43,000), salary step increases ($55,000) and lost revenue from an estimated 12 fewer students ($53,545).

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The middle-case scenario included having to cut more than $432,000, based on an 8 percent reduction in state funding. And the best case was a shortfall of about $347,000 with a 6 percent reduction in state funding.

But Zabel said the district has been told by the state that its best-case scenario wouldn't happen.

"We have to plan for the worst and hope for the best," he said.

Zabel said the district budget committee met last week and began discussing what type of questions to include on the survey.

Committee member Robin Bush, a middle school science teacher who attended the meeting, said the questions would be broad, such as "Would you be willing to increase class sizes?" She said they wouldn't ask about specific programs or teachers.

Bush added that the surveys also wouldn't ask how cuts should be made. She said those decisions would be left to the School Board.

The budget committee will work this week to finish drafting the questions, Zabel said. A letter then will be sent to stakeholders explaining why the district is conducting the survey and how to access it.

The survey will be available online and on paper. The district will make school computer labs available for people to fill it out.

Those who prefer the paper version can pick up a survey at a district school. Staff, parents and community members will have about two weeks to fill out the surveys.

Zabel said the survey would be available in Spanish as well as in English.

After the committee receives and compiles the survey results, Zabel said, they will be presented to School and District Improvement Teams and staff for additional feedback.

The budget committee will present results and feedback to the School Board in March, Zabel said. The district's administration team also will present its recommendations for budget cuts to board members at that time.

"I hope there's a good response," board member Sharon Nereson said about the survey. "It affects a lot of people."

Board President Brian Hoza said he suspected there would be a lot of interest.

He added that in addition to getting feedback about the budget, the survey also would help the School Board learn how the community perceives the district.

The School Board is scheduled to approve preliminary budget measures for the 2010-11 school year at its March 17 meeting.

Also at Wednesday's meeting, the School Board unanimously approved the 2009-10 budget. The budget, with a more than $5 million general fund, is due to the state by Jan. 31.