Small Town News


Budget leads to staffing cuts at Nowata schools

Nowata Star of Nowata, Oklahoma

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After a seeing nearly a half million cut from the Nowata School District's budget during the last school year, the district will lose an additional $175, 000 this fiscal year.

"We ended up with $465, 000 less money than what they told us last July that we would be receiving. They are going to cut out of the total education budget going to the schools 2.9 percent, which for us would be about another $175, 000, " said superintendent Fred Bailey.

"If that was all, we'd be in good shape. The problem we have is that about one year ago, Oklahoma was up 10, 000 kids. So they take all this money and they divide it by the number of kids. If we are up another 5, 000 or 10, 000 kids, that per student amount will go down."

Because Nowata is down in its student count, giving it fewer students when the funds are divided up, that $175, 000 could grow to $250, 000 or $300, 000. And that's on top of the funds cut last year.

"If we lost $465, 000 and you add another $300, 000 to that, our budget going into next year could be $750, 000 less than that it was one year ago."

Bailey received calls asking why the district is cutting teachers, but "when you lose $750, 000 it's not only the six teachers, it's the eight support people we lost last year plus the three administrators before. It's all that together. I was just real thrilled to think we can get by only cutting six teachers. It's just a devastating situation is what it amounts to."

Legislation in the works also may alter some of the mandated costs to the district, which would ease the budget crunch somewhat.

"If they will let up on those a little bit, that will help some. That way we can spend it the way we feel like it needs to be spent and not the way the state says we have to spend it, " he said.

On July 22, the district should receive a statement of the amount it will receive for the school year, but that could also change. While the drop in tax revenues appears to be leveling out, it's not going up either.

"Money is a problem. Someday the Oklahoma revenue will pick up, but until then it's just a slow process. It's still just a wait and see situation, '' Bailey said.

And while the lottery was to help school funding, the state cut its education funding by about the same amount that was to be gained by the lottery, so lottery proceeds didn't actually add anything to school funding.

Work at the swimming pool was not completed last week, but Bailey anticipates with no rain youngsters may be able to take a dip late this week.

"The goal is to start painting on Monday. It takes about two days to paint and a day or so to dry, then two to three days to get the pool filled and the chemical levels accurate. The earliest would be the 25th or 26th of this month, and that's if

everything just goes perfect, "

he said.

School board members approved the personnel report, which included hiring a two teachers. A secondary science teacher left in the middle of the school year, and another science teacher resigned at the, end of the year. Bailey said only one of those will be replaced, and James Johnston, who has taught at White Oak and Afton, was hired to teach high school science.

Also hired was Jennifer Prince as band/choir teacher, filling the spot left vacant with the death of Robert Jones.

Bailey said six other positions were not refilled.

"We cut a middle school English teacher, but that teacher was certified to teach elementary so they bumped elementary teachers. Our elementary teachers that have been here the first or second year were the ones that were really hurt the most as far as being bumped, " he said.

A special education teacher was also cut', along with a high school counselor. Because the elementary and middle school counselors, who had been on staff longer, were certified through high school, they were bumped up.

School board members did hear a bit of good news with a reduction in insurance premiums.

Total insurance – including property, liability and auto coverage – dropped to $38, 000. About three years ago, the total cost was closer to $61, 000, he said.

"That's the only thing I can think of in education that has dropped over the last five years on a consistent basis."

Copyright 2010 Nowata Star, Nowata, Oklahoma. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: June 23, 2010

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