Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 5, 2016

School board discusses budget during work session

By NICOLE HESTER-WILLIAMS Ledger staff writer | Nov 29, 2016

“Our income is not where it was,” said Fairfield Community School District board member Jennifer Anderson. “We’re living high on the hog.”

FCSD superintendent Laurie Noll agreed.

“We’re living too big,” Noll said.

School board members met at the Administration/Curriculum/Technology Center Monday night to discuss the budgeting process and how to decrease the district’s budget by $850,000 in order to comply with a state requirement.

The district prepared materials showing FCSD’s enrollment totals for prekindergarten through 12th grade from 2007 to 2016. Within the nine-year period, enrollment has fallen from 1,809 in 2007 to 1,718 in 2016.

Anderson said over the years, enrollment had dropped, but the budget hadn’t compensated for the reduction in students.

FCSD business manager Kim Sheets said the district lost nearly 100 kids within the last 10 years, and that although the district has around $4 million in cash, it doesn’t have the authority to use it because the funds are tied to student enrollment.

Board member Paul Miller provided data showing that teacher salaries in Fairfield in 2015 were a little more than $6.8 million, while all other staff combined salaries were $4.197 million. The figures did not include food services staff since that is paid out of the district’s nutrition fund.

“All other staff is equivalent to 61 percent of total teacher salary,” Miller said during an interview today.

The data also showed that Fairfield school district was over staffed compared to other nearby districts, such as Ottumwa, Cardinal, Washington and Mt. Pleasant.

“In my opinion, we are significantly overstaffed,” Miller said, adding that he thought the board should take a look at cutting other staff besides teachers.

“Our lifeblood of the school is teachers,” he said, commenting that the board was considering the closing of Libertyville Elementary School, where several teachers, a janitor and an office assistant would be included in the cut.

If Libertyville were closed and the building minimally maintained, it would save the district $461,086. However, Miller said if the district were staffed comparable to other nearby districts, the savings could be a little more that $1 million.

During the meeting, school board president Phil Miller said that Paul Miller’s data be should be sent to the Iowa Association of School Boards for verification.

Paul Miller said today that the IASB is where he obtained the numbers to calculate the percentages.

Noll said today that Paul Miller’s data would be looked at further.

A board member posed a question Monday night about whether the district hired too many associates.

Noll said that 90 percent of associates were hired by the district based on student need and their Individual Education Program.

“We are high on our associates; we do need to look at that,” she said during an interview today. “However, we will go back to what that team decides is best.”

Noll said the team would consist of teachers, parents and administrators.

Although the board is considering several places to make cuts, the current considerations are the closing of Libertyville, early teacher retirement, and staff reductions.

Sheets said other ideas were also being considered to propose to the board.

“We want to look at every possibility to see everything that we can,” Noll said, explaining that each option would be vetted and given due diligence.

“We want to make sure that we haven’t left one single rock unturned,” she said.

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