4/19/2018 3:32:00 PM Staff retirements help trim over $300,000 from budget
By Karen M. Jorgensen
Triton School Board members trimmed approximately $350,000 from the 2018-2019 budget Monday night without cutting any programs. The action came at a meeting that saw parents and students express their anger at any potential cuts to programs affecting students, in particular arts and the Spring Musical.
During the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting several students spoke told the board how important the Spring Musical was to the students, parents and community.
Student Council Co-President Courtney West said this was her first year participating in the musical. Arts education, such as theater, has a great impact on students, she said. True, she said, the musical is the most expensive of the arts events but it also draws the largest audience and involves the entire community.
All the theater students, she said, appreciated that the board was willing to listen to them and also that the district was taking steps early to deal with the financial situation.
Parent Aaron Maixner told board members he was there to express his opposition to further budget cuts to educational and arts programs.
He asked board members if they were listening to what people in the community were saying, if they had asked why last year's levy did not pass. Had they asked why, he said, that more than 200 Triton students are open enrolled in other districts.
"We're cutting education and the arts," he said.
Some might say that if the musical were cut these students could sign-up for the fall play or One-Act, he said. That would be the same as telling a football player to sign up for baseball instead, if the football program were cut.
As for cost, he said, the musical cost approximately $9,800 which came out to $150 per student. By contrast, he said, basketball costs $31,000 and football $46,000.
He pointed out the district has already eliminated the Middle School play, 5th grade band and reduced the number of music teachers.
"We're cutting more and more away from the arts," he said at a time colleges look for arts participation from their prospective students.
If the district continues to cut education, Maixner said, district residents will not vote for the levy.
Comments by students and Maixner were applauded by the audience.
"I've gotten lots of phone calls so I know what a lot of people are saying," responded Board Chair Jim Jensen adding the budget cuts would be discussed later in the meeting.
Still, he said, the district has to balance the budget for next year and was looking at every possibility.
Supt. Brett Joyce added that the administrative team had asked for suggestions from staff on what to cut and he was not filtering anything out just giving the board the list of all the suggestions.
In the end, the figures presented to the board by Joyce showed that approximately $350,000 could be saved next budget year primarily because of retirements of longtime staff. When individuals who have worked in the district for many years retire, he said, there are savings because new staff members are hired at a lower salary.
He cited the retirements of Bruce and Sandy Huber, Don Henderson, Debra Meeker, John Schreiber, Linda Clapham and Megan Zilgette.
Early projections for the next school year, he said, also showed the district could reduce staff by one elementary teacher and three education assistants. Those actions had been approved by the board earlier in the meeting.
In addition to these staff changes, which he described as "easier to achieve" other suggestions from the staff had included cutting the musical, not renting the school out to outside groups, eliminating free student admission to some events, increasing facility fees, eliminating the Science Olympiad and Knowledge Bowl, eliminating cheerleading, sending one bus instead of two to games, eliminating Jazz Band and not filming games.
In the end, the board voted to approve the cuts described as "easier to achieve" with the understanding that if additional cuts needed to be made all possibilities would be considered.
Joyce also pointed out that for the past two years retirements had allowed the district to reduce the impact on programs.
"We're not going to luck out every year with retirements," he said.
The positions that were eliminated, Joyce said, were because of student enrollment projections for next year. If enrollment increases those positions could be reinstated but increased students would also result in increased state aid.