This Thursday, the school board and I will be discussing the budget recommendation for 2019-20 as well as reviewing Budget Boot Camp (BBC) materials. BBC is our planning process at North Branch Area Public Schools (NBAPS). Like most area districts and many others statewide, we must realize budget savings for next year.

In January, we forecast the need for $2.7 million in budget reductions for next year. I am happy to report that, with further study and by using some funding streams differently than in the past, we  have been able to reduce the deficit to just over $2.3 million.

The reasons these reductions are needed are several. School funding continues to be a problem in our state, and the occasional improvements provided by the state have not come close to keeping up with inflation. The state’s funding for the delivery of special education services continues to lag well behind actual expenses, and school districts must use general education dollars to meet the needs of students and families. 

For the current school year, NBAPS was required to use roughly $2.5 million in general education dollars to adhere to the state’s “maintenance of effort” requirements. If the state adequately funded its special education requirements, adjustments for 2019-20 would not even be necessary.

These state issues are affected locally by declining enrollment. Declines in the number of students served have been happening at NBAPS for over a decade. That challenge was compounded for the current school year by the opening of a charter school within our school district (the charter school and the school district are not affiliated).

In addressing the need for savings, NBAPS focused on the following priorities: class size, career and technical education, the expansion of gifted and talented programming, arts opportunities, financial literacy and life skills, and fulfilling the promise of the 2017 referendum. 

As well, opportunities such as our computer for every student grades 5-12, Project Lead the Way K-12, Pro Start, Air Force JROTC, and many more will continue to be proudly offered.

In a business that relies heavily on people there is no way to make these adjustments without, unfortunately, affecting people. Of course, district staff make every effort to minimize that effect.

Please contact your representatives and let them know that current funding is unacceptable and unsustainable. A complete list can be found at our website: www.isd138.org/Page/193. 

Locally, the sooner the area starts seeing new homes and new families the better. Without significant change/improvement to school funding at the state level, growth is the only avenue we have for breaking the cycle of annual budget adjustments.

The school board will conduct a public hearing on the budget recommendation at its March 7 meeting at 5:30 p.m. in Room 126 of the North Branch Area Education Center.

Dr. Deb Henton is superintendent of North Branch Area Public Schools. 

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