MOUNT VERNON — At its meeting on Wednesday, the Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education took action to reduce costs by $230,000.
Except for the elimination of Chinese and reductions in industrial technology and vocational agriculture, all at the high school, academic programs were saved including elementary art, music and physical education. The cuts will go into effect second semester, which starts on Jan. 15.
The administration was given a set of six criteria to be considered when developing a plan to reduce costs to the district. The guideline was as follows:
1. Keep all academic programs available to students.
2. Look at class size as criteria for making reductions.
3. Spring sports should be low on the priority list.
4. Keep specials at the current level (elementary art, music and physical education).
5. Keep as many people employed as possible.
6. Look at administrative positions as possibilities.
The cost containment measures — and the potential savings are as follows:
•Spring musical — $2,801.27. If a spring musical is desired, participants would have to pay a $100 fee.
•High school industrial technology will be reduced from an eight-period day to six periods a day — $11,664.68.
•Vocational agriculture will change from eight to five periods a day — $15,040.56.
•Battle of the Books, eliminated this year — $1,395.
•Termination of Rich Gillis contract —$15,000 this year. Rich Gillis is the law firm which handles the district’s tax appeals.
•High school, middle school and elementary library aides hours reduced by one hour per day — $14,311.49. There are a total of nine library aides throughout the district.
•Chinese language classes eliminated — $14,438.73. There are a total of seven students in two sections of the course. Students will receive credit for the first semester of class and will be offered other course options for second semester.
•Computer technology, eliminate one computer tech aide position — $22,472.23.
•Retirements of three employees — $49.922.48. These are savings for this year that occur when substitutes or new hires cost less than the retired employee.
•Kindergarten changed to all day, every other day — $38,000.
Reduction of security guard’s hours — $3,541.70.
•Reduce supplies and things through building cost centers — $10,000.
•Spring sports participation fee raised to $300 per sport, which is included in the savings to the district amount listed after each sport.
•Eliminate freshman baseball team and one assistant coach position — $8,643.51. Freshmen would be able to try out for the JV team.
•Eliminate one softball coach position — $5,410.10.
•Eliminate one tennis coach position — $4,401.10.
•Keep volleyball. Savings due to increased fees — $2,000.
•Keep high school track. Savings due to increased fees — $6,500.
•Keep middle school track. Savings due to increased fees — $6,000.
Superintendent Steve Short said the above measures will allow enough carry-over funds to meet the bills in July and August. He said the board will begin discussion in January to determine what “happens next.” Since Short will recommend the board place an operating levy on the May ballot, the board will be talking about what will happen if the levy passes, and what further cuts will need to be made next school year if the levy fails.
Three audience members addressed the board concerning the cuts.
Student Max Heindl said he was relieved that one of his favorite teachers wasn’t let go, and read a letter from another student who was lobbying on behalf of the FCCLA program.
Community member Vicki Fitzgerald said the board, in addition to making cuts, needs to pursue other ways to raise operating funds. She said the board should work toward making sports totally self-supporting and make an effort to “think outside the box.”
She suggested the board actively think about fundraising opportunities such as soliciting donations from alumni and local businesses and corporations. Using social media means to reach potential donors, she said, would be on option. Fitzgerald also reminded the board that 6,500 district residents voted for the November levy. “6,500 people already said they would be willing to give more money to support the schools,” she said. “If every yes vote would give $35, that would raise the $230,000 you need before July. You must open the door and find a way for them to do that.”
Stating that she and her husband both voted for the levy, Fitzgerald then handed the board a check for $70.
Retired art teacher Linda Smith said, “Tonight was a victory for the students who still get to have art, music and phys. ed. You never know how much of an impact those have on students’ lives. ... I’m proud of the board for not looking at art, music and phys ed as a quick fix like a lot of districts do.”
The board will hold a special work session in the middle school library at 6 p.m. on Jan. 3.
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