Culver Schools Expect Budget Reductions, Consider Staff Cuts

Culver-Community-School-CorporationCulver Community Schools could be looking at cutting teaching and administrative positions in an effort to help balance the budget. The corporation’s treasurer Casey Howard told the school board during a study session on next year’s budget Monday it looks as though the state will be cutting nearly $2 million of Culver Schools’ funding in 2016.

She says she was so shocked by the preliminary numbers, she had to check with a representative from the Department of Local Government Finance to make sure they were correct, “I said, ‘Did I make any errors doing the budget? Did I not fill something out right on the Gateway program? Is there something that I did?’ And she said, ‘No, there were no errors in the budget. You are being limited in what you can afford.’ So I replied back to her, ‘So, it’s just another person in the state department that’s telling us that we are spending more than we’re bringing in.'”

She says all the school’s funds are being cut, but the biggest issue is going to be the General Fund, where staff salaries come from. The corporation’s been supporting its General Fund with money from the Rainy Day Fund. Howard says that method is working for now, but with little money going into the Rainy Day Fund, it could run out within the next two years.

She and superintendent Vicki McGuire discussed the situation with the school corporation’s financial adviser and concluded that they were running out places to save money, other than cutting staff. McGuire suggests cutting two administrative positions and two certified teaching positions, but says it’s actually a bit more complicated than it seems, “When you let administrative positions go, they are still on a teacher contract. Everybody’s on a teacher contract if you’re certified. Even if you’re an administrator, you’re on a teacher contract. So once you cut the administrative position out, then it goes into you have a teacher contract, just like all other teachers.”

That means administrators can’t just be let go. Instead, they have to be given teaching positions. Then, the school corporation has a certain procedure it needs to follow to figure out which teachers can be laid off. However, school corporation attorney Jeff Houin says the state laws that determine that procedure are still up in the air, “The best interpretation that we’ve come up with right now is that if you do a reduction in force, you first have to look to any teachers that became teachers after July 1 of 2011 and, among those teachers, you have to make the reduction based on performance evaluation.” That most likely means a total of four teachers would be laid off according to the plan, while the two administrators would then take the place of two of them.

Howard says she often has to explain the situation to people who complain that the school corporation says it doesn’t have enough money, even though taxes remain high, “The general fund is the one that we’re struggling with. It does not get tax dollars. Those people that are involved in the school corporation know once they took away your tax rate for your general fund and based it on your student population, that’s when every small school corporation started having problems in their general fund.” She says rather than funding teacher salaries and classroom supplies, the majority of tax dollars go to pay off the corporation’s debt.

Many at Monday’s study session expressed concern that cutting teachers would hurt the corporation’s ability to educate students and drive enrollment further down. School officials said they would look for more ways to combine duties and add to staff members’ responsibilities in an effort to cut costs and save jobs.