BAKER — The Baker School Board on Tuesday night approved measures designed to continue reducing costs in the district, including possible staff cuts, in response to declining student enrollment.
Superintendent Herman Brister said after the meeting that he’s happy with the progress that has been made in addressing budget concerns but added that “we are still not where we need to be.”
The School Board unanimously approved a measure allowing a reduction in force for all job categories within the school system, if needed.
“The fundamental statement here is ‘if needed,’” Brister said. He said the system will make every possible to avoid staff cutbacks.
Enrollment in the district’s five schools is currently at 1,390, but the budget for the 2016-2017 school year will be based on 1,350 students, in case the numbers decline, he said.
In October 2015, there were 1,459 students enrolled in Baker schools.
Earlier in the year, Brister, who became superintendent last May, laid off 20 employees, including both teachers and support staff and eliminated 31 vacant positions as well as instituting other cost-saving measures.
Because of the belt-tightening during 2015-2016, some money will be able to be rolled into the 2016-17 budget, Brister said.
Still, there likely will be some decrease in the school district’s funding in the 2016-17 school year, either from state Minimum Foundation Program money, which is awarded based on student enrollment, or other sources of funding, he said.
He declined to provide specific numbers but added that more budget information should be available at the next board meeting.
The district’s budget for the 2015-16 school year as presented to the board in August was $14.7 million in expenditures and $14.9 million in revenues.
The district is working to increase enrollment by advertising its offerings, Brister said, including a billboard on La. 19 advertising the pre-K program and one soon to be put up on Plank Road highlighting programs at Baker High.
In another attempt to save money, the board unanimously approved a four day work week for staff employed during the summer, something many school districts do, Brister said.
The board also discussed a proposal to reduce the percentage of employee health insurance premiums paid by the district, but tabled it for further study.
Despite budget worries, Brister announced that all employees will receive one-time pay supplements in May. The state awarded the district $80,000, which was earmarked for staff supplements.
The district added $12,000, to bring the total to $92,000, which will be divided among the school system’s 179 employees.