Big Budget Cuts For Schools In Columbus Junction - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Big Budget Cuts For Schools In Columbus Junction

Updated: Jan 23, 2013 05:31 PM CST

Columbus Community School District is facing a more than $450,000 budget shortfall. The school board passed a reduction package that includes laying off teachers.

The district is laying off 7 teachers; the cuts include teachers from pre-school all the way through high school.  4 Para-professional educators, 1 high school secretary and an elementary administrator will also loose their jobs. The superintendent says the main reason for such a big budget shortfall is declining enrollment.

"This is a huge student decline and we're not just loosing 3 or 4 students a year, this school year we lost 75," says Superintendent Dr. Marlene Johnson.

Columbus community schools have seen their student population decline every single year. In 2002, the district had 1095 students. In 2012, student enrollment dropped to 826.

"When we were analyzing why we were loosing students, some people were afraid it was open enrollment, but our open enrollment hasn't changed over time," adds Dr. Johnson.

Loosing 200 students is a big financial loss. Each student brings in around $6000 in funding, but there's not much the district can do to retain the students.

"Where we're loosing them is they move to other districts in the state," says Dr. Johnson, "They're moving out of state and a portion of them are moving back to Mexico."

To cut costs the district decided to cut their biggest expense, which is salaries. The more then $450,000 budget reduction plan includes eliminating the 13 positions. However, the superintendent does not know which employees from each department will be laid off.

"In the master contract it states we can use evaluations, certifications, other pertinent information, and seniority. So, it's not just going to be based on seniority," says Dr. Johnson.

Pink slips will be handed out sometime this spring, after the superintendent, lawyer and teachers associations have figured out who will be cut.

After the cuts are finalized the district may not be out of the woods. There is the possibility similar budget reductions will happen next year.

"If our student population continues to decline or depending on how much allowable growth we get when the Governor decides, there are a lot of things that could impact the budget," says Dr. Johnson.

If the district does not make budget cuts, they could go into negative spending authority, which is illegal. If the district goes into negative spending authority the state would get involved and possibly take away the district's spending authority.

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