This will bring the student base cost to 1994-95 funding levels, and according to Hunt, about 120 laws that included education mandates have been passed since that time.
Following recent directives to look deeper for ways to cut expenses outside of the classroom, staff presented a second set of proposed actions to the school board Monday night.
Hunt emphasized that the proposals were not actual recommendations but were being presented for discussion.
The proposals were divided into three levels, with the need for those cuts depending on further deterioration of revenue base, or additional required expenditures, he said.
Among the first level, “definite reductions” suggestions was to further cut district office personnel for a savings of about $183,320.
Hunt said the proposal would include cutting a total of 7.6 positions from central services and district wide.
A suggestion was also made to exercise a buyout option for promethean boards for a cost savings of $989,000, as well as to reduce non-personnel and maintenance costs at the district level for a savings of $319,154.
The 13 definite reductions that were suggested come to a total savings of 2,305,466 and also include reducing the number of days school nurses work by five.
Level two “possible reductions” add up to $2,646,505, and those suggestions include going with a more cost-effect option for delivering the district’s alternative education program at Simpson Academy.
Hunt said the program, provided to middle school and high school students, currently exceeds state requirements.
“We are required to have a program, but we could reduce it down,” he said.
However, Alex Saitta, the Pickens representative, said he is not in favor of making cuts to the program.
He said as family situations have changed, the need for more alternative education will continue to grow, as well as the need for more vocational education programs.
Hunt said the suggestion was made because of the high cost of the program.
Other level two suggestions included reducing the number of guidance clerks, elementary technology assistants and media clerks down to state requirements. This suggestion would cut 44.6 positions.
Level two suggestions also include two furlough days for teachers and four days for administration.
Hunt said he was not suggesting more furlough days at this time because of the history of not receiving the amount of state funds anticipated. He said he’d prefer to reserve that option in case that happened.
The elimination of middle school resource officers was also suggested as a possible reduction, which would save $199,281.
Board member B.J. Skelton asked about how many incidents are happening at the middle schools requiring the SROs, but data was not readily available.
“Their presence, I’m sure, is a deterrent,” he said.
Board chairman Jim Shelton noted that four of the five middle schools are located near a high school, with the exception of Dacusville.
Hunt said if the officers were cut, the high school officers would be on call for the middle schools.
Elimination of middle school athletics was also suggested as a possible cut, for a savings of $99,685.
Skelton called the suggestion “a bad recommendation,” especially considering the low savings that would come from it.
He pointed out that a number of students only come to school because of the athletics.
Last resort, level three, suggested cuts add up to almost $3 million in savings.
Those would include reducing staffing of guidance counselors and assistant principals down to state requirements. This would affect 24 positions.
Other last-resort suggestions include eliminating district-paid life insurance, reducing the 4K program to half days and strictly adhering to the 21.5:1 student-to-teacher classroom ratio.
Hunt said other options available could be the limited use of the $15 million fund balance.
He said he would only be comfortable using somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million of those funds.
He said other options include a tax millage increase that could net about $400,000, as well as charging a $25 per student instructional fee, that would generate $250,000; and a $50 athletic fee per student who takes part in those activities, which would generate $83,100.
Hunt also said the school district hopes the state will allow flexibility with the local teacher salary supplement.
Skelton said the local delegation has been told that local boards need autonomy for how to disperse some funds.
“Here we are talking about cutting teachers, but we’re required to give step increases,” he said. “That’s totally illogical. It’s typical for the state to mandate requirements and not fund them.”
Saitta questioned the growth of staffing over the past several years.
He said that based on 2009 audit figures, FTE rates increased 35 percent while during the same time period, enrollment rose 2 percent.
Finance Director Missy Campbell said that in 2009, bus drivers became part of those figures.
Saitta said this made it difficult to tell exactly how much employment changed from 2008 to 2009.
“The problem is clear – in good times, the school district hired too many people and they no longer have the revenue to support all that hiring,” he said.
“I can understand why you’re recommending the layoffs,” Saitta told staff. “You have no choice.
“Myself, I voted against four of the five annual budgets because I saw this problem coming,” he said.
Hunt said that staffing has been increased as the district saw needs, some of those needs being state mandated.
Saitta said that while he realizes cuts have been made, he said increases have been made in other areas.
Campbell said some funds have been redirected.
She said 88 percent of the general fund expenses for the school district come from salaries and benefits.
Campbell said cuts have already been made in supplies, travel, field trips and athletics.
And she said savings have also been realized through furloughs, positions cuts and frozen positions, as well as deferred maintenance.
She noted that information provided Monday night can and will change as updated information comes in from the state.
Previously, staff had suggested cutting special reading programs because the district was losing federal funding, but Hunt said based on further research, they have found that funding may be available for one more year.
Hunt said the school district is pressed for time when it comes to making decisions about position cuts. Staff plans to bring a list of those proposed cuts before the board on March 22.
Hunt said that by law, contracts must be distributed to employees by May 14.
Between all three levels of suggested cuts, about 76 positions could be affected if approved by the school board.