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Special education 2011 budget in dire straits

May increase assessment to school districts

Managing editor

Like balancing a checkbook, Marion County Special Education Cooperative board members were told in a meeting Feb. 3 that the cooperative’s “checkbook” was going to be overdrawn in 2011 unless some drastic measures were taken.

Cooperative Executive Director Chris Cezar showed projected revenues, expenses, and cash balances for this fiscal year and next.

Calculations indicated that the cooperative would need to cut $776,159 — the net of lost revenue resulting from state funding cuts and a reduction of staff.

If the five school districts in the county kick in an additional $250,000, and the cooperative cuts personnel and saves ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funds received this year for next year’s budget, the cooperative could end up $6,600 in the black at the end of fiscal year 2011 — a “paper thin” balance for a nearly $4 million budget, Cezar said.

This year’s budget is more promising with more than $64,000 anticipated in carry-overs.

Currently, school districts pay a percentage based on the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) special education personnel who serve the district.

Here are some solutions:

  • Officials anticipate a bill will be passed into law during the upcoming legislative session that will revise the formula for Catastrophic State Special Education Aid. If the bill passes, the co-op could receive $1,000 more in aid per FTE, which would generate $80,000 this year and next year.
  • The co-op could draw down the entire amount of ARRA assistance — $442,000 — which would ease the challenge of 2010. However, it would make 2011 more challenging, if any of those funds are available.
  • Staff and officials have identified $43,500 of cuts in 2010. According to Cezar, an additional $275,000 needs to be cut in the 2011 budget.
  • The co-op could move ahead the due dates for local district assessment by a month.

“Resources would have to be drastically cut,” he said, continuing that if 20 FTE personnel were reduced, the cooperative could save $449,000.

However, when resources are cut, so is revenue because the state bases funding on the number of FTE of faculty and staff, not the number of students as done in the school districts.

USD 408 Representative Lyle Leppke asked the difference in aid from 2009 to now. Cezar said the loss of revenue was $240,000 in 2009-10 and $480,000 in 2010-11.

“Why are we looking for twice as much money as we’ve cut?” Leppke asked.

Cezar thought about the question for a few minutes and offered this explanation.

Total resources in 2010 were $4,322,412. Resources in 2011 are estimated at $3,488,471.

“Every time I cut resources, I am cutting revenue,” Cezar said.

Leppke said he understood that.

“If we get into cutting staff, then our expenditures cannot be the same,” he said.

“They aren’t,” Cezar said. “They will go from $4,258,000 to $3,481,841, a reduction of $776,159.”

He continued that he put in those numbers to show a positive balance and this was a just an example of what the board could do.

“We’re looking for solutions,” Cezar said.

USD 397 Representative Terry Deines asked the history of the purchase and renovation of the special education cooperative central office in Marion.

In all, $350,000 came out of last year’s budget, Cezar said. There was $24,000 in overages that will come out of this year’s budget, making the total purchase and renovation of the building $476,000. The building was purchased for $100,000 from the City of Marion.

The cooperative board entered two executive sessions for more than an hour to discuss non-elected personnel. When it returned to open session, the board approved negotiations with staff.

The next regular cooperative board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the cooperative office, 1500 E. Lawrence St., Marion.

The board will make a decision regarding a request by Peabody-Burns School District to withdraw from the county’s cooperative.

Last modified Feb. 11, 2010

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