Any cuts USD 257 board members make to confront loss of state aid will hurt children, City Administrator Judy Brigham said at an informal session attended by about 30 people, mostly parents, on Tuesday. Joel and Lisa Wicoff, parents of four district students, organized the meeting.
It would be better if legislators could find money to deal with the state revenue shortfall, Brigham said, which, after a $71 million adjustment in February, is approaching $500 million.
Julie Tidd, a parent and former teacher, noted that families could “cut out vacations and eating out, but it’s hard to put school programs on hold or close a school for a year.”
Others had similar observations and suggested ways to cut expenses and restructure to save money.
Several proposals were ones board members have discussed, but new ideas were mentioned, from cosmetic to radical.
— Cut all health insurance for district employees.
— Reduce administrators’ pay 3 percent, staff 1 percent.
— Consolidate administration.
— Institute a districtwide income tax of 1 percent.
— Cut all paraprofessionals except those involved with kindergarten and special education students.
— Abandon the Bowlus Fine Arts Center altogether.
— Share activities, and costs, with area districts.
— Encourage students who have left the district to return.
— Be judicious in purchases.
— Have school supplies drives.
— Start an adopt-a-classroom program.
— Have sports teams raise money for uniforms and expenses.
— Partner with other districts in after-school and summer programs.
— Pursue more vocational-technical funding.
— Take more advantage of Allen County Community College.
Respondents also noted things they preferred:
— Music and art programs.
— Keep classes as small as possible.
— Retain all-day kindergarten.
THE WICOFFS said they were pleased with attendance and encouraged those commenting to do so beyond Tuesday’s lunch.
“Show up for board meetings and events,” Lisa Wicoff said. “Show the kids, teachers, staff and board of education that you care.”
“I don’t think the economy will turn around in the next year and I don’t want to see anyone lose their job or have programs cut,” Joel Wicoff said. But, he noted, whatever is done should “impact children as little as possible.”
Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools, said he would have recommendations for money-saving measures for board members to consider Monday night. The 6:30 meeting in Iola High’s lecture is open to the public.
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