Council Bluffs Community School District sent a message out to parents Friday providing some information on budget challenges and cost-saving measures under consideration.
The administration is aiming to cut $3.8 million from the budget for 2023-24.
In the message, Superintendent Vickie Murillo assures parents that the district will continue to provide “high-quality learning.”
“The budget is being strategically designed so that we may continue to provide personalized and high-quality learning while taking into consideration the uncertainty of student enrollment and the reality of inadequate increases in state funding that do not keep pace with inflation,” Murillo wrote. “Our task is to develop a budget that reflects a savings of $3.8 million over this current year to cover the necessary increases in salaries and operational costs, while also maintaining a responsible reserve balance.”
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She also points out that the district now has to adjust to budgeting without the benefit of COVID-19 relief dollars.
“As you may know, school district funding from the state is based on student enrollment,” Murillo wrote. “The significant decline in student enrollment the two years following the onset of COVID-19 has presented some challenges. However, we have been able to strategically use the additional ESSER/ARP dollars our district received during the pandemic. We are planning now to ensure we are financially stable without those funds in the future.”
The administration is also trying to factor in the possibility of students leaving the district to attend private schools, since Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature established a program that offers state-funded scholarships to students who attend private schools.
“This legislation will result in an unknown amount of our per-pupil funding (being) diverted to non-public schools for tuition,” Murillo said in the message. “This adds a layer of uncertainty, and we do not yet know how our budget will be affected.”
Unfortunately, school districts will not know how the program will affect them until long after budgets are due. Students can apply for Educational Savings Accounts, as they are called, until June 30. District budgets must be turned into the state by April 15.
“We remain confident that relatively few families will choose to leave our school district for a private or faith-based school option and will instead choose to take advantage of all of the opportunities we offer students,” Murillo said. “However, we need to be fiscally responsible and plan for a decrease in the amount of the state funding that was designated for our resident students.”
She listed the following cost-saving measures classified by level:
Extend the technology/Chromebook replacement schedule to a four-year cycle rather than a three-year cycle.
Transfer technology and facility repair costs out of the district’s general operating fund into an insurance policy.
Reduce summer school days while still serving the same number of students.
Reorganize the Facilities, Custodial and Maintenance Department and use of vendors.
Discontinue our agreement with the National SAM Innovation Project for the Time Tracker software.
Reduce the number of district-level administrators and support personnel.
Adjust the current structure of Teacher Leadership and Compensation and how the funding for stipends is allocated.
Consider changing the elementary school boundaries to re-assign Crescent area students to either Lewis and Clark or College View Elementary and close Crescent Elementary.
Re-organize the classroom schedule for a consistent delivery of the elementary special classes of art, music and physical education, as well as counseling.
Transition away from the International Baccalaureate middle school program.
Reduce the total number of graduation coaches and therapists.
“In closing, even with these cost-saving measures to implement a fiscally-responsible budget, I am confident that we will continue to provide each child with personalized and high-quality learning and make progress on our district strategic goals,” Murillo said. “You can be assured that we will remain focused on making a significantly positive difference in the lives of children and ensure all students have every opportunity to benefit from a caring and personalized educational experience in which they will thrive and earn their Diploma +1 as they graduate from our school district.”