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Schools hear ideas for trimming budgets

Like many others across the state, two of the three school corporations in Harrison County held public forums in the past week to get input to help try to figure out ways to trim school budgets in the middle of the school year.
South Harrison Community School Corp. must shave $850,000 while Lanesville Community School Corp. is looking at a shortfall of $1.2 million over the next two years.
While reductions in force aren’t viewed as a favorable move, the amount of money that must be cut make them almost inevitable, superintendents at both corporations said.
‘We’re going to get through this. Lanesville Community School Corp. is not closing its doors. Lanesville Elementary School is not closing its doors,’ Donnie Hussung, Lanesville school board president, said Monday night in front of a crowd of 140 people. ‘But this is going to hurt. The moves we are going to make are going to affect friends and family. The only thing we have to deal with in this situation is people, and that’s what is going to make this so hard.
‘We have enough cash in our Rainy Day Fund that we’re probably going to be OK for 2010,’ he said. ‘But 2011 is going to be rough. Real rough.’
Hussung told the crowd that though several suggestions have been submitted, no final decisions have been made about how Lanesville will drop its budget from $4.1 million to $3.5 million. One factor that will help, he said, is that Lanesville’s teachers’ association ratified its contract with no increase in salaries outside of normal increases due to tenure or lane changes.
In a recurring theme that Hussung said caught him off guard, several people in the crowd asked for ways they could help monetarily, such as making direct donations to the corporation’s General Fund, or donating supplies the school uses. All donations, he said, have to be approved by the board.
‘As far as I know, there’s no way to twist the numbers around or make donations like that without having a record of it,’ Hussung said. ‘This has really surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. This is the type of community we live in. People are wanting to step up and help, and that’s what we need. We also need prayers.’
Janet Page, principal at Lanesville Junior-Senior High School, speaking on behalf of interim Superintendent Sam Gardner, who was home sick, noted that several things Gov. Mitch Daniels said small school corporations could not accomplish are being done at Lanesville. Lanesville is not the problem, she said.
‘The governor said small schools can’t pull off having advanced placement courses. We have six and are adding a seventh next year. The governor said small schools can’t have an equipped science lab and we have two. The fact is, things Mitch Daniels was telling us and other small schools we couldn’t do, we were doing two years ago,’ Page said.
Other budget-saving ideas tossed about included a possible public referendum to increase Lanes-ville’s tax rate for a seven-year cycle, do away with intersession programs and collaborate with other school corporations in the county to share expenses. Hussung also said that Lanesville may, in the future, do away with the balanced calendar and go back to a traditional calendar.
Lanesville’s tax rate for 2010 is 63 cents, compared to 87 cents for North Harrison and $1.07 for South Harrison.
‘We’re not ruling anything out at this point. I do know that we’ll probably have to start making some moves at our March 30 board meeting,’ Hussung said. ‘Judging by the turnout tonight, we’ll probably have to have it here in the cafeteria.’
South Harrison’s public forum Thursday evening had about 15 people present; however, it came just two days after the monthly board meeting in which there were about 80 people in attendance who heard an administrative proposal that would have cut $250,000 from the budget. The proposal was nixed by the school board.
At the citizen’s checklist meeting Thursday, South Harrison Superintendent Dr. Neyland Clark said the corporation isn’t looking at closing schools like neighboring New Albany-Floyd County school district is proposing.
‘One thing we’ve talked about is the possibility of going back to having parents pay for textbooks. We’ve also talked about RIFs. We’re looking at reduction in workforce due to retirement. We’ve re-ceived a few ideas, and we’re considering all of them,’ Clark said.
Corydon resident Bob Pruett suggested possibly offering an incentive bonus package for teachers considering retiring. Additional services, such as additional bus routes or custodians, could be outsourced. Another option is sharing teachers between the three county school corporations and sharing technological resources to help everything from classroom instruction to planning bus routes.
‘Why have three French teachers between us if we could possibly have one that would go from school to school? We’re not saying that’s going to happen, but nothing is off the table,’ Clark said. ‘We have a transportation software program that detects inefficiencies, and we can share that with Lanesville and North Harrison. There’s a road where you can stand and see buses from all three corporations pass by. We can find those redundancies and fix that.’
As of press time, no citizen’s checklist meeting has been planned at North Harrison Community School Corp., which needs to cut at least $350,000 to $400,000 ‘ and likely more ‘ from its budget.