The budget was the number one topic on the minds of Mabel-Canton School Board members and administration during their meeting on Tuesday evening, June 17. The board discussed and approved the preliminary 2014-15 budget, reviewed the 2013-14 budget and also discussed a district policy regarding pupil transportation.

2014-15 budget and cuts

Administration came before the board with a preliminary budget for the 2014-15 school year that includes projected revenue of $2,953,175 and expected expenditures of 2,975,339. Overall, the budget includes a deficit of $22,164.

The preliminary budget incudes $97,966 in staff proposed cuts that work to ease the districts ongoing budget deficit.

District Superintendent Jennifer Backer said, "Staff came to the table willing to participate" in the discussion of making cuts, while at the same time keeping the cuts from hurting students in the classroom.

Along with the staff proposed cuts, district administration was able to come up with a list of just under $62,000 in proposed cuts.

"Every department has been cut or chopped or chopped or frozen somehow," Backer said.

Board Chair Mary Kuhn asked how it was possible to cut the part-time night custodian and the part-time gifted and talented coordinator. Backer responded by saying the duties of the custodian would be absorbed by other full-time custodial staff and the gifted and talented program is no longer mandated.

"You don't have to have that (gifted and talented program) per state law anymore. We can always revisit it in other years but at this point looking at the teachers we do have, they differentiate instruction enormously in their classrooms - so those 'high flyers' are getting quality instruction and a lot of rigor already," Backer said.

Backer continued to explain teachers will be rationed in their use of printing for their classes - which is expected to save about $5,000 over the course of the year.

"You can only go so far with cuts before students get impacted," said district business manager Todd Luchtenburg. "Even though we don't ever want to put a dollar amount on a student - we get about $6,000 per student. So as we look at a report and see we have about 60 kids leaving our district - if we could get back half of them...you're looking at about $180,000. So that is one focus we need to start looking at more.... But I think in '15 (we should be) looking at why students are leaving and how we can stop that."

"There are some expenditures that go with having a student here but we got a lot of that infrastructure in place now. It's just a matter now of filling up our classrooms," Luchtenburg added.

The board unanimously approved the budget as proposed but tabled the nearly $62,000 in cuts proposed by administration in order for them to do further study.

2013-14 budget update, difficulties presented

Luchtenburg gave the board an update on the 2013-14 budget. According to the report he provided, as of May 31, the district has received 99.2 percent of its expected $2,585,236 in revenue for the school year. However, the district has only sent out 78.7 percent of its planned $3,038,655 in expenses.

Luchtenburg explained the primary concern is what is currently owed to HVED (Hiawatha Valley Education District), which provides special education services to the district.

"They're not very good about giving us any projections," Luchtenburg said. "They claim they can't give us projections (on cost) because they don't know yet...this is one of the reasons why on last year's budget we deficit spent."

He continued, "We are looking at the HVED contract and looking at 'is that the best place of us to put taxpayers' money for special ed students?' We can't as a district continually let HVED have this perceived power of not informing us."

Another area of concern was unbilled services from Schmidt's Busing Service for transportation to extra curricular activities. "We'll have a conversation with our vendors about more timely billing," Luchtenburg said.

Pupil transportation policy tabled

The board voted to table the approval of the second reading of a district policy related to transportation of students.

The proposed policy relates to the transportation of children to the home of a relative or a daycare provider if the facility is in the area the student attends. Limitations of the proposed policy include statements that district buses will not make extra stops or create new routes to accommodate users.

Board members were concerned about getting proof that school district transportation services cannot transport students into Iowa. The board directed administration to review the contract with the district's transportation service and bring forward more information at the board's next meeting in July.