Scott City cuts 7 full-time positions, programs to make ends meet

5/1/2014

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

SCOTT CITY — The Scott County USD 466 Board of Education eliminated seven positions through retirement, resignations, terminations and reassignments at a special meeting Thursday night. The board also made a district-wide cut to salaries and made cuts to some programs and coaching positions in the district.

The district made the moves to help cover a projected shortfall of close to $650,000 for the 2014-15 school year. After meeting in several closed sessions Thursday night, the board accepted the retirements of two instructors and a counselor, the resignations of two instructors, and the termination of a food service position and a housekeeping position. 

The board also accepted the voluntary reassignments of two full-time positions to become part-time positions. 

The board moved to change the forensics program from a course to an extracurricular activity and closed an open position for a forensics assistant, increased the health insurance deductible to $1,000, eliminated elementary summer school for 2014 and the Coordinated Curriculum Council and discontinued its continuing education program.

Not all positions were filled at the time of elimination, including the forensics assistant position and the debate position. The board also reduced the middle school athletic director position, reduced the professional development coordinator contract by .5 and reduced the testing curriculum instructor by .5. The board also eliminated one coaching position for both the high school’s football and softball coaching staffs. 

The board accepted a district-wide 2 percent salary reduction and eliminated $500 for medical reimbursement per the negotiated agreement.

“To clarify, that 2 percent salary reduction is across-the-board, from the superintendent to the administration and the entire staff,” board president Mark Davis said.

Overall, the reductions add up to $705,449. 

Davis thanked teachers and staff for their sacrifices.

“I would like to say on behalf of the board, we are extremely grateful to the staff for the vote they took this week and the concessions that you passed. I know it was difficult for you all, but it did save jobs in the end. And, on behalf of the board, as soon as we can get the district back on a solid financial footing, and we can do anything to reconcile this, we are going to try to be extremely prudent to where we can do that, to return some of that back to you guys, and get you back where you need to be,” Davis said.

The board took those actions after hearing the results of an audit done by the district’s CPA firm, Adams, Brown, Beran and Ball CPA, of Great Bend on Tuesday night.

At that meeting, Brian Staats, managing partner of the firm, recommended the school board adjust the budget — either by increasing its revenue or decreasing its expenditures — by $700,000 to $750,000 to cover expenditures and provide a cushion for the coming school year. He told the board the district wouldn’t make it through the end of next year unless cuts were made to that level.

Before the board went into closed session, Patty Strickler, a retired USD 466 employee who dealt with the district’s budget the past 30 years, addressed the board. She is listed as a clerk in the business office on a 2010/11 profile of the district by Kansas State Department of Eduation. Strickler said that after looking into meeting minutes and financials from the past year, which are public record, she found there was actually an issue with the budget last year.

“The bottom line is, by looking at this year’s budget on the website, USD 466 was in financial trouble last year and ended in a positive status by using nearly all cash reserve in some subsidiary funds, which only caused more problems for this year’s budget and even bigger problems for next year. Recommendations had to have been made to board members that were only affordable with the use of the contingency reserve monies,” Strickler said. “I am at a loss to understand the attitude of one person to want to cause so much stress and heartache to the board, employees, students and taxpayers.”

In a separate interview, Staats said both the school board and the superintendent, Bill Wilson, should have been reviewing and monitoring the status of the district’s financials throughout the year. In USD 466’s case, the accounting department, which is made up of a board clerk, a treasurer and superintendent, are involved in monitoring district finances.

“And of that, the superintendent is in charge. So the superintendent would then bring concerns or updates to the board to keep them informed,” Staats said.

Staats’ firm was contacted near the end of March, first part of April about doing an independent audit.

“They had received their final audited enrollment, and they knew they had an issue,” Staats said.

The final, audited enrollment report is generated by the state and determines how much state money a district will get, based on enrollment. The funding is based on a weighted formula that provides more funding for such categories as at-risk students and transportation. Staats said actual state funding came in about $200,000 less than the district had projected. That, coupled with an increase in expenditures, primarily in teachers’ salaries and insurance, resulted in the shortfall. 

When asked how it happened, Staats said, “It was the fact that they were spending more money than they were taking in, and they didn’t identify that soon enough, and they used up their cash reserves.”

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