Further restrictions placed on expenses; students, teachers will likely see a change

As high schools across Kansas start their second semester, school districts will be looking at a poor financial blueprint for the remainder of the 2009-2010 school year. 

The Blue Valley district, already operating under a budget reduction of $6.25 million put in place last July, will continue to compromise and take necessary actions through the rest of the year and into the 2010-2011 school year. 

The district asked BVHS to trim its budget by five percent. 

“We will have to be more frugal about every expense,” principal Scott Bacon said. “We will be watching our paper consumption, the school temperature and our energy usage and taking a second look at how we spend our money. We will all have to be responsible when dealing with the current situation.”

Before winter break, Superintendent Dr. Tom Trigg announced via e-mail to all district staff members immediate actions that would be made to ease some of the financial pain.

“When deciding cutbacks, it was broad-based,” Deputy Superintendent Dr. Al Hanna said. “Everyone will feel pain to some extent.”

A district-wide hiring freeze already in effect will include an administrative review of every position before a new employee can be hired. 

Hanna said custodial crews at many schools will be affected. Because of such a tight budget, no new custodians will be hired and some have already lost their jobs.

“It’s possible many positions may go unfilled,” Hanna said.

The district also implemented spending constraints for every school. 

Administrators must closely examine the spending of district money, and only the most vital expenditures will be made.

“There will be less money available for teachers and the classroom,” Hanna said. “With continuous cuts, teachers will be making tougher decisions regarding what they can and can’t spend for special projects or other necessities.”

Students throughout the district could see significant changes in the coming months, including larger class sizes and less availability for certain classes. Enrollment for the 2010-2011 school year may be difficult because many classes will not be offered as often as before.

However, the impact of the budget cuts may be minimal in the lives of BV students. Congratulatory Krispy Kreme donuts, paid for by Pepsi Co. and the Honor Roll magnets, paid for by Community America Bank, will still be among the school’s academic awards.

“Our school has a lot of tradition which is a big deal,” Bacon said. “We will be looking outside our own funding and we may need to get creative with our budget.” 

In 2005, patrons of the district passed a $280 million bond specifically for technology improvements, renovations and the construction of new schools. 

BV students can thank the bond for the additional classrooms, Fitness Center, renovated lunchroom and administrative offices and new lockers. 

“The budget cuts have not affected construction or any renovations because of this bond,” Hanna said. “Construction was not impacted and no projects have been halted in the process.”

Since 2005, the bond provided funding for the building of Sunrise Point Elementary, Timbercreek Elementary and Blue Valley Southwest. An additional three elementary schools will be built within the next three to five years as well as another middle school and the continued construction of the CAPS building.

Hanna said the bond also funded renovations for many of the district schools and a long list of technology purchases.

“It is a common misconception that the bond money can be used to increase salaries,” Hanna said. “But that’s not true. The same goes with the funding for Blue Valley Southwest or other renovations. The funding for those came from the bond and cannot be used elsewhere.”

Looking at BV’s academic future, certain interventions will also be closely examined. Academics First and PASS could be affected, as well as other tutorial programs. 

The biggest challenge, Bacon said, is paying the salary for the administrators and teachers to staff those programs.

If proposals for the state budget continue to decrease educational funding, sports teams and extracurriculars could take a hit as well, he said. It’s possible many of the sports programs will be reduced to varsity and junior varsity, rather than multiple teams.

“It’s important for students to participate in such activities like sports and to be involved in the school, so hopefully our budget wouldn’t take away from that,” Bacon said. 

As for improvement of the current financial situation, Hanna believes the state’s economy must turn around.

“In such a difficult economic time, it will be hard to pass legislation for public school funding,” Hanna said. “It could be a few years before any improvement is seen. We are down so much that it could take awhile. It’s hard to say.”

Despite the state-wide budget reductions, Bacon is certain that Blue Valley will maintain a positive atmosphere and continue to provide the best learning experience possible.

“We will make every effort to continue and find ways to help our students,” Bacon said. “The learning environment and the students’ success is ultimately what matters most.”

by Allison Kohn