Hannibal Board Adds to List of Possible Cuts, Backs Away from Setting Tax Levy Goal

Administrators in Hannibal added to the list of programs and positions that they say should not be cut, but might have to be.

The district is facing a budget deficit of more than $600,000.  Board of Education members reviewed a long list of possible cutbacks a week ago.  Wednesday night, they were shown a few more, along with some details on cuts they’ve discussed before.

In athletics, they were told that the district would save $6,400 if all non-league games were eliminated in soccer, volleyball, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball, while the number of tournaments would be reduced for wrestling, cross country and boys and girls track and field.

Eliminating the tennis team would save $6,607 plus the cost of transporting students to matches.  Eliminating the cheerleading team would save $5,491 plus transportation costs.

They heard that it would take a negotiated agreement with the district’s unions to stop paying the people who take tickets or supervise games, or who run game clocks or man the chain gang for football games.  Football and basketball games cost $400 per game for those people.

Previously, the board was shown the full cost of athletics:  nearly $90,000 for all modified sports and about $200,000 for all varsity sports.

They were told that cutting a full-time nurse to part-time would save $21,171 but it would leave buildings without nursing coverage.

Board members wanted to know about the teaching assistants, monitors and aides employed by the district.

There are 36 teaching assistants throughout the district. 7 have 90% of their salary covered by federal funds. 21 are mandated by law to work directly with students with disabilities.  Only 6 are fully paid for by the district — 3 library aides, a computer lab aide at Fairley Elementary and two in-school suspension aides at the middle and high schools.

The district employs 14 monitors for health, lunchroom, attendance, study hall and hallway duties, along with two aides.

High school principal Brian Schmitt said that it’s possible the district will be hiring more support staff, not fewer, to cover holes created by laying off teachers.

They were told that they could consider eliminating the position of secretary of the director of pupil personnel services, though the district may then not be able to meet state guidelines and file reports with the state on time.

They heard that the district employs fewer custodians than standards call for, and that custodial staff members are being trained to help in other areas, such as the bus garage.

And they heard that the district has cut bus runs to the minimum because total enrollment in the school may be declining, but the number of students riding buses remains stable.

Board members remain uncomfortable with the cuts that are on the table, which include 16 positions that involve elementary education, speech therapy, literacy coaching, guidance, art, music, science, business, social studies and English language arts.

“We don’t have much to cut before we start jamming up these kids in a big way,” said board president Matt Henderson. “I think we need to come up with some revenue somewhere.”

“We don’t make the cuts,” said board member Fred Patane. The board only sets the upper limit of spending and it’s up to administrators to decide how the money will be spent.

Patane said, “We’re looking at a good sized deficit.  We have asked for our [union bargaining] units to give us a flat pay scale this year, same as they had last year,” saying openly for the first time what has only been hinted at so far.

Board members appeared to have been trying to keep temperatures lower than last year, when frustrations between the board and unions boiled over into some angry words at public meetings.

“We can’t afford, especially at the elementary level, to cut staff,” said board member Linda Warrick of the possible loss of 4 K-6 teaching positions.  “To even think about cutting 4 positions is ludicrous.”

The board backed away from setting a tax levy goal, with a majority saying they wanted to see what the state budget looks like before setting the levy.

Business Manager Nancy Henner told the board that it would take about an 11% tax levy increase to keep all programs intact next school year.  That number could rise as costs come in for items like fuel.

The board will hold another work session in early April, hoping that the state budget is approved by then.

“We’re gonna have to figure something out,” Henderson said.  “We might just squeak by this year but it’s getting kinda old.  I’d like to stop just squeaking through.”