Teutopolis Board Makes Cuts, Raises Fees

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Published on March 12 2013 2:59 am
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Additional cost-cutting has taken place since this article was published. That story is located here.

Original Article

Teutopolis school board Monday voted to make cuts and raise fees in an effort to address a budget deficit approaching $1 million.

The Board voted 5-2 to increase the district registration fee by $15 across the board, to establish a $5 activity fee for non-athletic extra-curricular programs, and to hike the athletic fee to $75 per student per sport.  The exception is Bass Fishing, where the fee will remain $25 since the participants and volunteers cover most of the costs.

Board President Marty Siemer and member Carl Repking voted against the motion, but didn't disagree that some action was needed.

As for cuts, the Board voted to dismiss Dale Will and Annie McClellan as of school year's end and to reduce the teaching responsibilities of Amanda Hazlett to three hours per day.  The Board also voted to eliminate the 10 extra days that high school counselors Kathy Esker and Diana Grinestaff have been paid at the end of the school year to work on transcripts for graduating seniors, and eliminated the day Kindergarten teachers Teri Jansen, Beth Lindvahl and Carmen Breer have worked at Registration.  Board members also reduced the days worked by teacher aides Cindy Esker and Judy Martin each week from five to three.  The Board also cut the rate paid substitute teachers by five dollars, to $85/day.

The personnel moves follow earlier decisions by the Board not to replace retiring or departing teachers.

One decision that drew comments was to have three sections of first grade during the coming school year.  That leaves 26 to 27 first graders per class, something that was opposed by some moms of first graders present at Monday's meeting.  One presented information that test scores are higher where first grade class sizes are smaller, and that scores slipped when class sizes rose.

Siemer said he didn't take issue with what the parents shared, and reminded that additional financial information could allow the situation to change, although he made no promises.

The Board raised lunch prices to $2 for students in Grades K-6, $2.25 for students in Grades 7-12, and $2.50 for adults.  Superintendent Bill Fritcher was directed to begin the process of changing the Driver's Education fee from its current $50 rate to $250.

Board members also approved all of the athletic cuts recommended at a special meeting last week.  Those include eliminating fall baseball, eliminating girls frosh-soph basketball, leaving a frosh-soph boys basketball coaching position vacant, and eliminating the golf program although players could still compete as individuals.

There were objections to eliminating the frosh-soph girls basketball program.  Fritcher said there are options that would still allow elimination of a separate schedule and a separate coach.  One option would be to play a frosh-soph game ahead of a JV game and then follow up with the varsity contest.  Girls Coach Laurie Thompson said that starting early enough to accommodate three games would cut into the boys team's practice time since they share one gym.

Athletic Director Andy Johnson said he wants to sit down with Thompson and see what could be done to address the situation.

Repking asked about a proposed cut policy that would be instituted with the reduced number of coaches.  He wondered whether an increased participation fee would generate enough funds that a coach could be hired and cuts wouldn't be necessary?

Meanwhile, the Teutopolis Sportsbackers and the Teutopolis Education Foundation are meeting Wednesday to see what could be done to generate more revenue and restore some of the items cut Monday night.

Other cuts included ending paying wages for maintaining the summer reading program, a long-time staple at Teutopolis, although Fritcher said he hopes to maintain the program with volunteers and by obtaining grant funds.  There was also a vote to cut all field trips, but it was agreed that staff members and parents can attempt to come up with a plan to conduct the trips without use of district funds.

One program that escaped the chopping block was the Homework Help program for elementary and junior high students.  Other cuts, including principal Pat Drees and Johnson giving up their District-furnished cell phones, will cover the cost of staffing Homework Help.  Other administrators had already lost their cell phones for next school year, but Johnson and Drees were going to get to keep theirs because of logistical considerations they encounter.

Board members earlier considered closing Teutopolis Junior High School as a cost-cutting move.  The idea was later taken off the table, but the Board decided Monday to form a facility use committee to examine all district facilities to see where efficiencies could be generated in the facilities.  It's expected the committee will be made up of board members, administrators, educators and community members.

Also Monday, Teutopolis board members agreed to pay natural gas bills out of the Operations and Maintenance Fund rather than the Education Fund; agreed to seek a cook who would work at the grade school; and heard that 61 fulltime Kindergarten students are enrolled for the coming year with four more deciding whether to attend fulltime or part-time.

Following a closed session, the Board re-hired district administrators and set their pay at approximately 2.1% less for next year than they are receiving this year.  The move by the administrators was to save money and also to help retain all administrators' jobs for next school year.