Kutztown School committees generate ideas for cost savings

Patriot photos by Roxanne Richardson Randy T. Burch, school board vice president, left, talking about subcommittee recommendations for cost savings during the Feb. 17 Kutztown School Board meeting.
Patriot photos by Roxanne Richardson Diana Rydzewski, Kutztown, commended the Kutztown School District sub-committee on their creative proposals.

Kutztown Area School District sub-committees investigated minimizing costs while maximizing opportunities for students, limiting negative impact on student achievements while being fiscally responsible and to make recommendations to Kutztown School Board.

Subcommittees consist of school board members, administration, teachers and community members and parents. The sub-committees formed were for academic programs, for student services, and for student activities and athletics. Using a color-coded method, reminisce of a traffic light, the committee was able to identify and prioritize line items.

Green items indicated minimal negative impact and would be recommended. Yellow meant there would be some negative impact and recommendations were made with reservation. Red items had extensive negative impact and were not recommended. Blue items were ideas for generating income.

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Presentations were made to the School Board on Feb. 10 and 17. The following is from the Feb. 17 presentation.

GREEN ITEMS PROPOSED:

Academic Programs included to add half-days (aka Act 80 days) for PLCs (professional learning communities) back in initiating a savings of $7,000. When the committee balanced that against the number of substitute teachers needed to cover for the teachers during the meetings, more was spent on the substitutes than what was saved on the transportation costs.

Student Services included to decrease funding out of district placements not historically used resulting in a savings of $65,000 with minimal negative impact on students, eliminate two unfilled paraeducator positions in the 2013 and 2014 budget with a savings of $60,000, and eliminate the position of middle school paraeducator for the gifted services program, as there is a full-time, Teacher of Gifted. This cut would save $30,000.

They also suggested to provide more training on differentiation for all teachers as it relates to students with special needs or students that are at risk for identification. Although there could be additional training costs, it could decrease the number of referrals to special education reducing overall costs for special education department. The savings was undetermined.

Student Activities and Athletics Green items were listed as cost saving cuts, which included the district work with musicals to establish a budget, limit how much the district would put into musical funding, use the Chamber of Commerce for advertising in the stadium, and have the administration take more control of advertising.

YELLOW ITEMS PROPOSED:

For Academic Programs, they recommended to eliminate purchasing a series of books called, Vocabulary Workshop, in grades five through eight in 2015-16. The elimination would result in the need for additional professional development in resources allocated to time, additional instructional strategies being developed as well as materials. The cost for these books is a consumable, recurring cost with a realized savings of $5,000. The concerns for cutting it now would be the need to build a vocabulary instructional program immediately in order to be ready for next year.

They also suggested to eliminate the DARE program since it will most likely be no longer supported through the police department. There is an additional program in place in seventh grade health and guidance classes that addresses issues with drugs and alcohol. There will be a savings of approximately $5,000 per year.

For Student Services, there were no yellow or red items and the conclusion projected savings of $155,000 for the 2014-15 school year.

Student Activities and Athletics Green items were listed as cost saving cuts, which included to review musical costs and offset by KASMA/musical fund and encourage positions on a volunteer basis. The musical would pay for custodial cost and rental fee. They also suggested to co-op more sports with Brandywine Heights Area School District. They would like to bring in students from surrounding districts to the FFA and charge tuition.

Committee members also recommended to eliminate the assistant high school coach with a savings of $11,041. There would be implications of safety issues. Normal staffing is four for average high school team.

RED ITEMS PROPOSED:

For Academic Programs, if vocabulary workshop books were to be cut at this time, it would take staff development, teacher work time devoted to this, and then to be ready for next school year would be difficult. Cutting it immediately would cause a shift in some resources.

Student Activities and Athletics Green items were listed as cost saving cuts. The committee notest that to eliminate co-op football with Brandywine Heights Area School District could mean a loss of activity for middle and high school boys from Kutztown and Brandywine. This would also mean a loss of ticket revenue of $10,129, a loss of revenue to KASMA and other organizations who benefit from home games, a loss of cheer, band/color guard opportunities and the loss of $12,369 that had just been spent on safer equipment.

In 2010, student activities and athletics equipment budget was cut from $71,000 to $35,000. It is currently on a bare bones budget for each activity and athletic sport team.

BLUE ITEMS PROPOSED:

The sub-committees were also responsible to find ways of generating income. Designated as code blue, there were items at the beginning or exploratory phase requiring additional energy, discussion, and planning.

For Academic Programs, they suggested to accept tuition students from neighboring school districts who are attracted to KASDs program. Implications could mean existing classes would become overcrowded, one student would not be able to be selected over another and costs may increase for students with special needs.

We would be able to say, for example, our third grade is full, but we have room in our second grade or we have room is some programs, but sorry youre not going to be able to take the electives that are already full. We could do that so we dont have to add staff to keep taking more people. On the other hand, I dont think we can say, well, well take this student for third grade and not that student for third grade, said Katherine D. Metrick, superintendent. She added they would need to find out the guidelines allowed for accepting tuition students.

Potential revenue generated would be about $13,000 per tuition student, but there is the cost of educating that student. The bottom line revenue hadnt been determined yet.

After school academic programs could generate $190 per class, but teachers would need to be willing to create programs and would need to be compensated and there wouldnt be any guarantee that students would or be able to participate.

KASD teachers offering community educational programs generating potential revenue of $190 per class. There would need to be a minimum number of participants to enroll in these classes.

Student Activities and Athletics recommendations included to create an athletic foundation, grant money, capital campaigns, alumni donation program, fundraising events, increase fee for sports physicals from $10 to $15 per physical, and signage on stadium and tennis courts

With the tennis courts and the football stadium, there is an untapped potential there. We very easily could be raising $5,000 to $10,000 a year with that type of advertising, said Randy T. Burch, school board vice president.

Eric Johnson, school board member, suggested product advertisement in musicals. The idea was a bit humorous to attendees.

Its kind of a sad statement of where we are now. The school districts need to talk about this and whether theres ways to make money for the budgets each year, said Burch.

According to school board member Caecilia M. Holt, Pennsylvania State Education Association is working toward a funding formula for districts.

For one thing it would just give a more predictable amount of funding that we could expect to get from the state so that would help with the budgeting process and hopefully a more fair funding formula, said Holt.

When attendees were invited to address the school board, Diana Rydzewski, Kutztown, commended the sub-committee on their creative proposals and wanted to offer some suggestions.

Have you considered some of the parents in the community, the sports parents, and having a coffee or a get-together and getting their input on what they feel like would impact? asked Rydzewski.

She recalled the time when her kids were involved in sports and hearing a lot of ideas from very involved sport parents.

Burch said there was an open meeting that allowed everyone an opportunity to attend and exchange ideas at that time.

Each sport has different booster clubs and theyre very active and they do a lot for the district right now as far as fundraising, donating their time and other things with the district so I think there is a lot of that exchange of ideas that take place already, said Burch.

Burch noted that people could get involved with the booster clubs or because the district has an open door policy, they would be able to contact Mick ONeil, director of student activities and athletics.

Rydzewski felt that the ideas she heard might not have been dramatic enough to go directly to ONeil, but when combined as a group there could be some creative ideas.

Metrick felt Rydzewski had a point and suggested the possibility of such a get together at an ECC meeting with a representative from each of the booster clubs.