The Luther School Board meets Monday night, a week early for some of us who abided by the calendar approved by the board last June. At any rate, the board meets March 7 and the agenda is here. There will be the usual business to consider (including some bills appearing again to pay the Town, OG&E and other vendors) as well as a Reduction In Force policy to be voted on by the board, as the stark budget realities from the state’s revenue failure keeps trickling down. In a letter sent March 3 to the campus that was kindly forwarded to The Luther Register, Superintendent Sheldon Buxton said “Luther Schools will be making some deep cuts in our present budget for the 2016 – 2017 school year.” He said the cuts amount to $590,000 and returns the district to a 2011 spending level.
“My hope is that at some point in time, Luther is able to grow off the State Formula and that we have in excess of 1,000 students, but the future for that may be down the road,” he wrote. LPS gets its funding from a complicated state funding formula because of its size and property tax revenue. However, Luther is close to getting off of that dependency with a little growth in the school district with enrollment and homes.
His plan also includes another run at the four-day school week for next school year. And a hope that attrition through retirement or resignation might help the employment situation and save some jobs. The district pays nearly $350,000 each month in payroll.
Closing out his letter, Dr. Buxton complimented his faculty and staff and pledged assistance to anyone laid off to find other employment. “You are a great faculty and staff and you will be missed by the Luther students and parents. My prayer is that you will move forward to better employment and I pledge my support for you in that effort,” he wrote.
There is no official word on what positions or programs will be cut. No doubt a stressful time.
Other agenda items are determining next school year’s calendar, considering raising the price of school lunches and fixing a problem with payroll tax withholding that was discovered by the outside school audit.
A special meeting of the board is expected the week following Spring Break. And those affected by the RIF, if approved by the board, are supposed to be notified by the end of March.
I’d like to see the superintendent take a voluntary pay cut as a show of good faith these tough times. Perhaps that could be a new beginning for developing trust?
I do not diminish the substantial affect the State’s budget crisis has on school districts across the state. However, according to Dr. Buxton’s own slide from the last board meeting, the school district’s budget is over $5.5 million. The loss of $53,000 from the state is equivalent to less than 1% (barely less) of the entire budget. To allow the Superintendent to continue to use the State crisis as an excuse for our current situation is disingenuous. It is not the loss of the 1% but how the 99% is spent which has caused this situation. The math says as much. The auditor says as much. Common sense says as much.