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MISD readies list of cuts for 09-10 budget

The Mercer Island School District has prepared a budget reduction plan to cut $2 million from next year’s budget.

The plan means that 14 staff positions will be eliminated, almost every class will get larger next year, every school and the administration office will have classified staff reductions, including para-educators, secretarial and clerical hours. The district will likely limit districtwide publications, including eliminating the calendar and distributing district news only one or two times each year. It will likely reduce the number and scope of professional development opportunities for staff, eliminate clubs and after-school activities at all levels, reduce the music program staff, and restructure the central administration office to eliminate two associate superintendent positions, as well as other cost reductions.

Superintendent Gary Plano stressed, however, that nothing has been finalized as of yet.

Cuts proposed during the meeting include:

• $137,000 from instructional services

• $170,000 from support services

• $631,000 from elementary schools

• $386,000 from Islander Middle School

• $546,000 from Mercer Island High School

The central office restructuring of job duties is likely to save $74,400, but Plano said that number is just a ballpark figure, one which cannot be nailed down until the state budget is finalized.

Districtwide, the plan makes a .6 FTE reduction to the K-12 music program, equalling $51,370. The music program has approximately 10 FTE serving all students. Plano said the music department will decide where cuts will be within the program.

The district will also eliminate the morning shuttle for fifth-grade students to MIHS for band. The bus usually transports between three to 10 students.

“It’s not a very cost-efficient program,” said Ziara.

MISD will reduce the number of times that assessment tests are offered, according to Michael Schiehser, director of instruction and assessment, saving $20,000 next year.

“We try to be as accommodating as possible, but we’re going to try to lump as many together as possible,” said Schiehser, adding that it costs a lot to give tests to one student at a time.

A reduction in professional development opportunities will save MISD approximately $18,000 next year, almost a 50 percent drop.

“Basically, we’re not offering the same opportunities,” said Morrison.

At the elementary school level a reduction of four certificated positions will be made, a cut of $342,000. Part of that would be through reducing the gifted program at West Mercer, which Principal Rich Mellish said is not supported by numbers anyway for next year. The elementary plan also reduces classified hours by 21 hours a day throughout the three buildings, saving $113,000.

At Islander Middle School, over $200,000 in reductions will come from a cut of 2.4 FTE in certificated staff. The school will be losing another 2 FTEs due to enrollment changes as a large eighth-grade class leaves IMS and a smaller sixth-grade class moves into the building. The building will also cut $89,000 from the classified staff budget, making many small reductions across the boards.

“We feel we can become more efficient, but that’s a pretty big chunk,” said Miller. IMS will have to reduce the after-school offerings to students, but hopes to work with both the PTA and volunteers to keep some programs going. Currently, students pay to be involved in sports, which will remain, but club activities, which historically have low involvement, will move to volunteer-run organizations. Clubs without PTA or volunteer help will likely be eliminated.

Mercer Island High School expects a $546,000 cut next year, largely from a reduction of five certificated and two classified staff positions. The five certificated staff will be split with 2.3 FTE for non-enrolling, “non-classroom positions ,” and 2.7 FTE for classroom positions.

Principal John Harrison said that core subjects will be hit harder than elective classes. Class sizes in the high school will go up as well, likely to 31-32 students in freshman and sophomore classes and 29-30 in junior and senior classes.

Harrison said that last year, the budget reduced high school club stipends to staff by 25 percent. He added that he is reluctant to cut after-school opportunities even more because he would be afraid that not offering something would hurt a student in the college application process.

“I find that one a tough one,” he said of reducing clubs. “It’s so important in the college admissions process.”

One area that will not change will be athletic fees. Plano said that he made an executive decision to leave this area alone.

The School Board will hold several special meetings through the rest of April to continue working on budget reductions. The first will be on April 23 at 7 p.m. at Islander Middle School.

On April 28 at 5:30 p.m. at the Crest Learning Center, the board will hold a special meeting to approve the 2009-2010 budget reduction plan. Thursday, April 30 at 6 p.m. is the School Board’s regularly scheduled meeting, and the district will meet jointly with the City Council for an hour before the regular meeting.

A full disclosure of proposed district reductions can be found on the district’s Web site, www.misd.wednet.edu. Anyone interested in making suggestions about the upcoming budget cuts can also do so via the Web site.

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