School district proposes few cuts

The Ashland School District presented a budget proposal Tuesday night with few cuts but several adjustments that will have an impact in the years to come.

The general fund budget increased 14 percent, but most of that addition was due to the recently passed Youth Activities and Academics Levy and a state school improvement fund moved into the general fund. In previous years, both were counted in special revenue funds.

Although three instructional positions were cut, staff costs still increased about $2 million over last year due to rises in salaries and benefits. This was the first year since Superintendent Juli Di Chiro began her tenure that the district has not made significant staffing cuts due to declining enrollment, she said.

However, about $750,000 in staffing costs were left out of the original budget projections as revenue was transferred from various special funds into the general fund this year. The problem was not noticed until additional staff reductions would have been too cumbersome to fix, Di Chiro said.

Instead, the district proposed to pay portions of administrator's salaries with previously unallocated funds from the construction bond. About $300,000 per year from the construction budgets will be spent this year and next to pay salaries of staff working on the projects. However, that means adjustments will have to be made for the 2009-2010 school year, when all salaries must once again come out of the general fund.

"I still think it's a good strategy for this year and next year," Di Chiro said. "It buys us a year for some planning."

The other $150,000 was recouped by cutting supply budgets for various extra-curricular activities funded by the Youth Activities and Academics Levy. No programs were cut and there is still no cost for student participation, Di Chiro said, but it may mean teams cannot purchase new uniforms or equipment in the upcoming year.

This is the first year that activity levy revenue could be included in the general fund, adding approximately $2.9 million to the budget. In previous years, the levy was limited only to fund activities.

Staff also expressed concern that a statewide economic downturn could affect how much money the school receives from the state at the end of the year. They expect to receive almost $11 million from the state, about 40 percent of the general fund budget. The rest of the budget is funded through local sources.

The district will hold a second budget meeting on May 6 at 7 p.m. in the district board room.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext 227 or .

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