Highland looks at budget reductions

By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL


RIVERSIDE ? The Highland School Board reviewed budget reduction strategies for the 2018-19 school year and approved two transportation reductions for the next school year at the meeting Monday night.

Interim superintendent Dr. Mike Jorgensen gave the board a preliminary list of areas the district could save money in to reduce the budget for next year. Those items include: shifting 50 percent of the elementary guidance teacher?s time to the Talented and Gifted students program, eliminate a first-grade position, have an in- house transportation contract service with other school districts, have the staff take care of the football field rather than paying a contractor to do it, have savings from the utility bill at the Ainsworth building, human resource director contract service and maintenance director income by contracting that person out to another district.

?I don?t expect the board to take any action,? he added. ?This is what I kind of mapped out at this point in terms of the goal of $250,000 in reduction strategies. My hope is some of this will happen through attrition.?

Some of the savings, such as selling the Ainsworth building and not having to pay utilities for that building, is already in place, Jorgensen said. The district is also changing its operational sharing agreements with other districts. Instead of Highland paying other districts for their services, such as maintenance and transportation directors, they?ll be paid for their staff members to perform duties in other districts.

?I wanted to put this in front of you in case there were any questions on this, but this is kind of the plan I?m working from at this point,? he added.

Board president Nate Robinson asked Jorgensen what fund the money for the new lawnmower the staff would use to take care of the athletic fields would come from. Jorgensen said it would come from the facilities fund, and they probably wouldn?t see any savings there for a year.

The elementary guidance counselor is also working on getting certified to teach TAG at Highland Elementary, which means they?ll have TAG instructors in each building, he added.

?This is where we need to be for total reductions?? Robinson asked Jorgensen.

?Yeah, that?s a comfortable place,? Jorgensen responded.

Jorgensen also recommended the board cut two shuttles the district was offering currently.

The first shuttle he suggested cutting was the one to Lone Tree for two students who participate in FFA there.

?And once again, I know some of them [the students], that the first semester that were going over there, are not part of our program,? Jorgensen said. ?I just at this point in time don?t see any reason to continue that shuttle for next year unless the board feels like we should.?

The second suggestion Jorgensen had was to discontinue providing shuttles to the boundary lines for two open-enrolled special -needs students that attend school in a neighboring school district, he said. One of those students graduates this year.

?I?m not sure why that ever started,? Jorgensen said. ?We don?t have to be providing that service and once again due to our financial situation I don?t know why we would provide that. It?s not required in the IEP (Individualized Eduction Plan) and I think we should give that parent the notice now that this will be discontinued, so they have until next August to make other arrangements to get their kids to school.?

Robinson asked Jorgensen what that was costing. Jorgensen said $5,000 to $10,000.

Board member Megan Allen asked Jorgensen if the Lone Tree FFA was offering classes Highland wasn?t. Jorgensen said no. There were students who were a member of that chapter that wanted to stay there.

Discontinuing the shuttle doesn?t mean those two students couldn?t go to Lone Tree; they would have to find transportation themselves, Jorgensen added.

Allen said as long as Highland offered the same curriculum as Lone Tree, she would be OK with discontinuing the shuttle service to Lone Tree.

The board approved discontinuing the shuttles to Lone Tree and for the special-needs student unanimously. Board member Lois Schneider was absent.

The board also approved offering an early retirement package to administration and a budget guarantee resolution for the next fiscal year.