Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 13, 2014

Taylor debates ways to cut $584K

Declining enrollment, decreased revenue to blame.

By Lauren Fitch Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Superintendent Chris Smith used the analogy of moving from a big boat to a small boat to explain the changes ahead of Taylor Community School Corp. — and one goal is to keep students from jumping ship.

Facing declining enrollment, decreased revenue from property taxes and upcoming legislative decisions that could further impact funding, Taylor must cut its expenses by $584,000 going in the 2014-15 school year.

More than 50 people attended the public work session Wednesday to discuss reducing operations to a “small boat” scale. Twenty minutes was devoted to public input, and Smith plans to present a formal recommendation for the reductions to the board of education in March.

“We’re looking at every level, every department,” he said. “We’re trying to make it fair and equitable.”

Part of the restructure proposal is to partially close Taylor Intermediate School and move the fourth and fifth graders currently housed there to Taylor Primary School. The alternative school would move to the intermediate building, and the corporation would save about $20,000 a year on utilities.

Consolidating K-5 students in one building also would reduce staff hours by having the primary principal work part time overseeing preschool through second grade while the full-time intermediate principal would oversee grades three through five.

In addition to closing the intermediate school, the restructure proposal includes:

• Charging the school lunch program, which operates independently, for use of facilities and utilities for an additional $50,000;

• Eliminating the “new tech” logo for Taylor High School for a savings of about $39,000;

• Eliminating the preschool program offered by the corporation and rewriting the Title 1 grant so preschool classrooms would be funded with federal dollars to save $36,000;

• Reducing staff positions, including making the primary principal position part time and cutting an elementary teacher, special education teacher, two high school teachers and an English as a Second Language teacher for a total savings of $218,000; and

• Reducing classified staff positions like aides, secretaries, a nurse and accounts payable clerk for a total savings of $221,000.

Staff who are laid off will be put at the top of the list for subbing positions and any job openings that come up for which they are qualified.

Smith’s recommendations were based on interim superintendent Robert Foreman’s input before he left the position when Smith was hired effective Jan. 1.

Increasing student enrollment would lessen the cuts, Smith said, as each student brings about $6,000 in state funding to Taylor. The corporation has seen a net loss of 198 students in the past five years.

“We’ve really got to work hard … to take care of our kids here, get back the kids who live in our community and then draw kids from outside our district,” Smith said.

Retired teacher Janet Flowers and her husband, Alan Flowers, who live in the Taylor school district and enrolled their children there, were pleased with Smith’s presentation, noting it was well researched.

“Taylor Schools is facing what larger schools faced in the past,” Janet said. “Taylor’s got to make some changes. I was glad to hear he looked at everything. … That’s the way it should be.”

Coverage of the regular board meeting that followed Wednesday’s work session will appear in Friday’s Kokomo Tribune.