More budget cuts coming to Francis Howell schools
Francis Howell school officials are looking at the next round of student programs to chop after voters turned down a district tax levy increase for the second year in a row.
The more immediate considerations on the table include charging high school students for participation in extracurricular activities and cutting high school extracurricular programs, security personnel, teacher training and test materials. Altogether, the district has about $1.3 million in suggested cuts to programs.
Among the more extreme possibilities are cutting bus transportation for students within a 3.5-mile radius of their schools, and converting to a four-day school week, though neither would likely happen until at least 2018.
District voters rejected a 60-cent tax levy increase last month. School officials said that increase was necessary to prevent more budget cuts on top of the $12 million that’s already been cut in the past two years.
Officials worry that consecutive years of budget cuts will soon have an impact on the district’s high state performance rating of 99.3 percent.
A big cost-saver for the district would be cutting transportation — savings that would be amplified by adopting a four-day week. But the district is looking at making schools more pedestrian-friendly — for example, by creating “walk zones” — before simply cutting bus transportation.
If the district were to cut transportation for students living in a 3.5-mile radius, that would affect about 10,400 students, Francis Howell Superintendent Mary Hendricks-Harris said.
The district is trying to shy away from cutting staff. Hendricks-Harris says the schools are getting “down to the bone” in staffing. The district has cut 190 positions since 2008, including 90 in the past two years. All staff, including administrators, have a salary freeze this year.
“There is a level of exhaustion and frustration and our staff is beyond maxed out,” Hendricks-Harris said.
The School Board is expected to vote on the district’s staffing plan next month, and on next year’s budget in June.
The next Francis Howell board meeting is on Thursday, though the board will not vote on any budget planning matters for the next year.