Fairfield Ledger

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Board to decide future of Stockport school Wednesday

By VICKI TILLIS, Ledger news editor | Mar 13, 2011

KEOSAUQUA — The Van Buren Community School District Board of Directors is set to take action on the Stockport school issue during a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the high school library in Keosauqua.

The Van Buren school board is considering closing its middle school and relocating the 150 sixth- through eighth-grade students to help balance the district’s budget for 2011-2012.

Superintendent Lisa Beames explained the plan under consideration is to relocate sixth-grade students to the elementary school in Douds and to relocate the seventh- and eighth-grade students to the high school in Keosauqua.

Beames said if the middle school students are relocated next year, the district still has a need for and plans to use the Stockport school’s gym.

To help the school board explain why it is considering relocating the students and to hear community input, two public hearings were held.

During the meeting, Beames outlined the financial challenges facing the district. She said the district was hit with a 2 percent budget cut, followed by a 10 percent cut. In addition, enrollment is dropping.

Beames said the district has four funds: general; capital; debt service; and enterprise. Each one has restrictions. For example, general fund monies can’t be used for enterprise expenditures, such as day care.

She added that during the past three years, the balance in the unrestricted general fund has dropped from $1.3 million to negative $300,000.

“Our goal is to have the unrestricted balance be $100,000 by the upcoming fiscal year,” Beames said.

To reach that goal, she said the board would need a combination of spending cuts and tax raises totaling $430,000.

“We decided to account for half, $215,000, in spending reductions and half in tax increases,” Beames said.

During the past few months, the board has considered a number of recommendations to achieve the $215,000 in spending cuts. Moving the middle school students wasn’t included in the first round of cuts, but the board felt it was the most viable option presenting the least impact on student opportunities, said Starnes.

Relocating the middle school would save the district about $179,000, with about half of that coming from transportation.

Beames said some of the other alternatives would be a reduction in classes, including reducing the art and music programs and other instructional areas.

“If I had to choose between spending money on transportation or instruction, I’ll choose spending it on instruction every time,” she said.

School board president Brian Starnes said cutting the activity bus and cutting junior high baseball and softball were considered, but “we felt the money saves was not worth the opportunity lost.”

Ledger correspondent Rusty Ebert contributed to this article.

For the complete article, see the Monday, March 14, 2011, printed edition of The Fairfield Ledger.

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