The Edmond Sun

April 8, 2014

School board looks for ways to find budget cuts

Heather Moery
Special to The Sun

EDMOND — Lori Smith, chief financial officer for Edmond Public Schools, said the school district’s fund balance could possibly be higher than the previously expected number of 6.2 percent, however, expenditures still need to be reduced by $4 million.

At Monday’s Edmond Board of Education meeting, Smith said the fund balance could be as high as 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent depending on several factors, including state aid funding and payroll costs. But, in order to have a budget with an adequate fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2015, expenditures need to be reduced by $4 million from this year’s projected level.

In order to cut expenditures for next year, Smith said the district must generate more revenue from local sources, shift expenditures to other funds and cut expenditures.

In order to generate more revenue from local sources, Smith suggested increasing rental rates for organizations who rent school district facilities, increasing transportation charges for field trips and transportation contracts, possibly increasing student parking fees and increasing inter-departmental charges to other funds for fuel, utilities and overhead assessments. This alone could result in $150,000 in revenue, Smith said.

Smith said more than $600,000 could be saved by shifting expenditures to other funds. For example, moving custodial contracts to the building fund, moving the athletics budget to the activity fund and moving the radio tower rental to the building fund.

Lastly, Smith said more than $200,000 could be saved through expenditure cuts, such as cutting school and department budgets and reducing personnel costs.

From all three factors combined, Smith said the district could save close to $1 million in total, leaving $3 million in personnel reductions.

“At this time, we anticipate the necessary reductions can be accomplished through attrition with no layoffs expected,” Smith said.

If reductions in personnel did occur, class sizes would increase. For example, Smith said more than $1.25 million would be saved if the district increased elementary class sizes by three students. At this time, Smith said they are only looking at this possibility.

“We are trying to take the minimum steps we can,” Smith said. “We are still looking to the Legislature to respond to the public outcry asking them to properly fund public education.”

In another effort to find more money for the school district, the district is also taking suggestions from administration and staff on ways to save money.

Superintendent David Goin and school board members voiced their opinions and concerns on the school district’s possible outlook.

Goin said lack of funding is “forcing us to abandon strategies that have been successful” in the past.

“Thirty children in elementary and intermediate school (classrooms) is a step backwards for Oklahoma and it’s a step backwards for Edmond,” Goin said.

“It’s disappointing … disgusting … what state action has forced us into,” said Jamie Underwood, school board president and District 3 representative. “It’s detrimental to what we’re trying to do.”

Because of the state aid funding cuts and other issues, educators, staff and parents from Edmond and across the state attended the Oklahoma education rally March 31 at the state Capitol.

At Monday’s meeting, Goin thanked all 175 teachers and administrators who came to the rally and spoke to legislators.

“Was the rally successful?” Goin asked. “That remains to be seen.”

Goin also recognized Edmond parent Neeti Cohli, who was one of 650 to 700 people who attended the rally and who spoke at Monday’s meeting.

“It’s important to maintain funds,” Cohli said. “Please make us stronger. Don’t make us weaker.”

In addition to those who attended the rally, Goin thanked the Edmond parent-teacher organizations, in which some paid $101.25 per bus to help transport supporters to the rally.

As previously reported by The Edmond Sun, classes were not canceled for the rally. No district funds were spent on transportation to the rally, according to Smith.

Goin, as well as the school board members, concluded their remarks on funding and the rally by urging the crowd to stay involved to help get the change Edmond needs.

“We are facing a crisis,” Goin said. “We will continue our best efforts to share this very real situation.

“We want to do right by the kids and that’s the bottom line,” he said.