Maryville School Board works to break even on $1.5 million shortfall

The Maryville City School Board is running out of time.

The board only has a few weeks to come up with the $1,558,245 to break even on the 2008-2009 school budget proposed expenditures.

Director of Schools Stephanie Thompson said the budget will be getting some relief from the growth of Maryville’s population, but the extra students will not bring in enough money to prevent cuts. She said the board should expect an additional $86,000 in funds.

Another relief for the board is losing some teachers. “We do have some resignations and retirements that are full-time positions,” Thompson said. “The practice is to fill these with two part-time positions.” It would not be much, but this “practice” saves the board an additional $10,000.

Board member Mark Cate said even with the retirees and new students, the board needs to look at the fundamentals of what should and should not be cut. “This is hard to swallow. The city is getting a 1 percent raise, and our teachers may not get anything,” he said. “If we do not do anything we are losing ground.”

There are 14 different proposed budget cuts for next year. Out of those the board said there are some that will probably be cut. One of those cuts is a part-time music paraprofessional at Maryville Intermediate School. Thompson said the position was created when the band had more members but those numbers have decreased.

Another cut that may be made is to how the board will purchase textbooks. Thompson said instead of buying textbooks, students will use compact discs at home and at school computers for work. And as an alternative, Thompson said students and teachers will share textbooks inside the classroom and not be allowed to take them home. Chairman Carolyn McAmis added the textbook changes would affect the elementary schools more than the high school.

Larger cuts could dip into medical insurance contributions, cancel the dental programs and eliminate raises for employees. Slashing these out of the budget would save almost $832,500. Thompson said she was afraid to alter any of these because she wants employees to at least “break even” for the year.

Thompson did a survey of 306 employees and asked their opinion on the dental programs. She discovered that 254 said the programs “met the needs of their family,” eight said the program “did not meet the needs” and 27 “did not use the program.” While McAmis said the employees are an intricate part of the system, she remembers why she is on the board – the students.

“I’m sorry, but I do not think that dental insurance affects kids,” she said.

Board member Doug Jenkins added if the teachers are willing to forgo their raises, then the board should as well.

Finding the money will not be an easy task, McAmis said. “It will be a lot of work. We’ve got to do it. We’ve got to be creative,” she said.

The board unanimously approved one way to alleviate the red budget Monday. Next year, school cafeteria prices will increase by 25 cents for breakfast and lunch. Each additional cent brings in an extra $4,600 in revenue and all together totals $114,000. However, even with this increase, the school’s central cafeteria fund will still have a deficit.

The board could raise the price of food even more but Thompson said she would rather not. “I am hesitant about raising the price more than 25 cents,” she said. People will just stop eating in the cafeterias and bring their own meals she added.

The board has given itself a May 21 deadline to finalize the budget. Members will meet at the Maryville Municipal Building at 7:45 a.m. to balance it.

June 9 will be the next regularly scheduled school board meeting at Maryville High School.

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