The Mountain View School Board trustees have received numerous e-mails from staff and patrons regarding our current budget dilemma. I appreciate those who are taking the time to both make suggestions as to cuts, and to tell us how proposed cuts would affect them, whether financially or in regard to the education of their children. Some of those e-mails give us sleepless nights, though I know our distress is nothing compared to what those affected are going through.
All suggestions are given due consideration, but some are simply not feasible. For example, it was suggested that the district would save many thousands by contracting out some of the tech support instead of being provided by salaried staff. With so many new computers coming (thanks to federal CARES Act funds) and increased reliance on technology to support at-home learning, and the cost of up to $125 per hour for contracted tech support, such a move would increase and not reduce the deficit.
Just one more example (before your eyes start to cross) is the suggestion that cutting a certain district office position would save the district $68,000. In fact, the position referred to is federally funded, and the district would simply not get that funding. It would have zero impact on reducing the deficit.
My point with these examples is that this is not all that simple. Much state and federal funding, and grant money is restricted in its use. Some will pay part of identified costs as long as the district pays its share or all of the cost first, and even then, when and how much reimbursement is received is subject to change.
Unfortunately, the reality is that cutting 30 percent of the budget simply cannot be done without cutting into the 80 percent that was budgeted for personnel, including teachers, administrators and support staff. The remaining 20 percent is everything that enables staff to do their job and that enriches the students’ school experience - phones, water, electricity, copy machines, textbooks, supplies, bus service, extracurricular programs, building maintenance, and the list goes on and on. Cuts have been made in those areas,, as well. However, even if it were possible to operate after cutting all non-personnel items, it would still not be enough to balance the budget.
Most of the communications received also recognized that the board is grappling with extremely difficult decisions in extremely difficult times, and thanked us for our time and service, which I greatly appreciate. The board and district administration, I believe, is doing its very best to address the situation we are in today as well as trying to be prepared for a very uncertain future.
In conclusion, I join Debbie Critchfield, president Idaho State Board of Education, and our new superintendent, Todd Fiske, in thanking our staff for their tremendous and tireless work, and encouraging all – school board, staff, parents and patrons - to focus on the trust and teamwork needed to carry out our mission of providing the best education for Idaho children that our community can support.
Pam Reidlen of Kooskia is a trustee for Mountain View School District 244 board.