The last few years haven't been easy financially for Beatrice Public Schools.
That was the message Superintendent Pat Nauroth gave to the Beatrice Board of Education at its Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night, as the board discussed short-term budget recommendations.
Over the previous five years, the district has lost 118 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Including this year so far, the total comes to 135 students who have transferred out of the district, said John Brazell, the district’s director of business affairs.
“We've lost 118 students in the previous five years and we've lost over $1.1 million in state aid during that time,” Brazell said. “Now, our property taxes went up about $2.6 million during that time and our expenditures went up an additional $1.6 million over that same time. So, we actually came out negative about $150,000.”
Students equate to dollars, Brazell said, and the loss of students means the loss of state aid for the district, which has greatly affected what the district is doing.
District expenditures have not increased very much, he said, with an average increase of 1.5 percent per year. On the other side, he said, the district revenue has only increased by 1.4 percent per year, so it’s not keeping track with the district’s expenditures.
The district has also reduced its contingency fund, Brazell said. It used to carry between $150,000 and $200,000 in the fund, but that’s now at zero.
The district used the contingency fund so that it could balance the budget, Brazell said. They also used to carry funds in the general fund for building projects, he said, but that also has been reduced to zero.
The district also used to transfer any excess funds from the general fund to its depreciation fund for things like buses, cars and roof repairs, he said, but that fund is also now at zero.
“Those are our three biggest things that we have done inside our general fund budget over the past three years to make things balance,” Brazell said. “There's no more there. That's all down to zero.”
As the district has had attrition, he said, some of those positions have not been replaced. That hasn’t been a large dollar amount, he said, and they’ve also reduced the amount of money the district allocates to each building.
“We've done these things over the past three years to balance our budget,” he said. “We've come to the point where there's not much more water to squeeze out of the turnip, so to speak.”
Nauroth said they’ve had to take a look at programs like the district’s Compass Learning Community, an alternative high school setting for students who have demonstrated difficulties within a traditional high school setting. The idea of transferring Compass’ off-campus location back to the high school proved unpopular with the board, but there was talk of moving it to a different location, which could save upwards of $27,000 for the district.
“We already plan on holding back on textbook purchases,” Nauroth said. “We're going to do that for one year, that's already pretty well taken care of. You've already approved central office administrative changes, so that's then taken care of.”
Nauroth also said that a reduction in technology spending is being considered. The district may also consider reducing the number of para-professionals, he said. That would include three pre-K paras, two special education paras and one half-time in-school suspension para, he said. Finally, there’s the option of not filling or reducing one certified elementary school position.
Also discussed at Monday’s meeting was the restructuring of the elementary schools. Creating leveled schools, would help, he said, not only in having to shuffle kids around to different schools, but making adjustments of numbers easier.
“Kids don't come in nice packages of 20 in a building,” Nauroth said. “Some are going to maybe be 16, 17. Others are going to be 22, 20, 23 and the reason you do that is that we don't want to move kids, but you get to a point you have to in order to make that happen.”
No decisions were made, as Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting was set aside for discussion, but the board will come back to it at a future meeting.