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District 25 gets out the budget-cut knife

Mar 14, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Riverton school officials say they face a $1.2 million deficit as they work to develop next year's budget.

The problem has a lot to do with health insurance, according to Fremont County School District 25 superintendent Terry Snyder, who said premiums for district employees will go up next year while insurance payments from the state will decrease.

'the insurance payment to the districts is tied to the premiums the state pays for the state's health plan," Snyder wrote last week in a letter to staff.

'the state's health insurance premiums went down, (but our district) provides health care coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield."

Next year's higher BCBS rates will cost the district an extra $393,000, Snyder said, while the state will reduce its funding by $207,500. Those factors combine for a total loss of about $600,500.

Other issues

Snyder pointed out that no cost-of-living adjustments have been made to the state's funding formula for three years.

'that starts to catch up with you," he said, adding, "It's caught up with us."

He also anticipates a $100,000 increase in payments to the district's retirement system next year, and Snyder needs an extra $250,000 to hire three new teachers at the kindergarten through third-grade levels. Snyder said the additional staff will bring those grades closer to the state-mandated 16:1 student-teacher ratio.

Cuts

He already has identified several other areas in which money could be saved to cover the $1.2 million deficit. For example, Snyder said, about $350,000 will be removed from the district's special education reimbursement line item for students who receive services elsewhere. If the money becomes necessary next year, Snyder said it will come out of the district's cash reserve.

Funding for technology and capital account funding also has been reduced, and Snyder said he cut $214,000 from a 'variety of line items that will affect a multiple of departments."

"We also are going to reduce our legal counsel budget," Snyder said. "And there was a line item in there that was really kind of " and emergency fund. We're going to zero that out, so we will have no funds for any unexpected (events)."

Those changes, combined with a freeze of all salaries, will save the district $842,000, Snyder said. But that leaves about $375,000 left to go before the budget is balanced.

As a result, Snyder said the FCSD25 Board of Trustees has asked him to plan staff meetings to discuss changes to the district's health insurance system next year.

"We want to get their input," Snyder said Tuesday during a meeting of the FCSD25 Board of Trustees. "Health insurance is an important benefit to our staff."

Trustee Lynette Jeffres agreed that employees should be consulted about their insurance options before any changes are made.

"I think it's important the staff have ownership in some of that decision making," she said.

In the end, Snyder hopes next year's budget is balanced and does not require a reduction in force. He also would like to purchase instructional materials to complement new common core standards that are being implemented throughout the state.

'those standards are significantly more rigorous than what we currently have," Snyder said. "Our materials will have to be updated, (but) we presently don't have a line item for that."

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