For more information on Board of Education Meetings please visit the new Website: Board of Education Agendas & Minutes
Meetings are at the ABC Building, 909 S. 76th St., Omaha, NE 68114, 402-390-2100
***To review the complete Westside Budget Report please click here: Budget Presentation FINAL ****
Q& A RE: Budget Cuts
Q. Why are you cutting your budget when voters just approved a $79.9 million bond issue?
A. The District’s general fund and the bond fund are two separate pots of money. Bond funds cannot be used to fund District operations. The District proposed – and voters approved – the bond issue in order to update its aging K-8 buildings to meet modern standards for safety and security.
Q. Why do you need to make budget cuts this year?
A. The District has reached a point where its expenses are exceeding its revenues. To cover that gap, the District has drawn from its cash reserves each year for the past several years – an average of $4.1 million within the past two years. The District cannot continue to draw down reserves, any more than a family can continuously draw from its household savings account.
Q. How did the District get into this position?
A. The District has two main sources of revenue – property taxes and state aid. Property taxes in our mature, landlocked District have been flat for roughly the past six years. Although state aid has remained relatively constant the past six years, District expenses continue to increase, including items such as salary and benefits, transportation, and utility costs. The District also spends roughly $1,000 more per student than comparable districts in the metropolitan area. This added investment pays for many of the programs that Westside residents value – neighborhood schools, smaller class sizes, a K-12 one-to-one technology initiative and modular scheduling at the high school.
Q. How did you determine what programs or positions to consider eliminating?
A. District administration used a rigorous business decision-making model to establish and rank educational priorities. The District also conducted meetings with administrators, building principals, teachers and other staff, looking for input on budget efficiencies. The District specifically looked for the programs and positions that would have the least impact on classroom instruction. It also sought to maintain the programs that set Westside apart, including neighborhood schools, small class sizes, modular scheduling at the high school and a K-12 oneto-one technology initiative. This programming is part of the excellence that the community expects from District schools.
Q. What have you done to prepare for these challenging financial times?
A. The District has addressed funding gaps in the past four years. The District has targeted mostly non-salary items with the express goal of staying away from classrooms. These saving include items such as renegotiating contracts, consolidating Learning Community transportation routes, reducing substitute teacher costs and reducing consultant expenses.
Q. Have you looked at administrative positions and ABC Building staff?
A. Yes. Since 2012, the District has eliminated three central office administrative positions and the building receptionist position. District administration looked at all areas of the budget as they were making cost-cutting decisions.
Q. What will happen to employees whose positions are eliminated?
A. We will do all we can to keep all of our current employees. We hope to handle any reductions through attrition. Depending on their expertise and their endorsements, employees may be offered other positions within the District.
Q. You’re proposing to cut the District’s summer school program. How will that impact our students?
A. The Title I summer school program for students who need remediation is funded by the federal government and would remain in place. The District’s K-6 summer school program exists primarily to provide enrichment opportunities. More than 300 students participate each summer. Eliminating the program would not impact the core elementary academic program. Students have the option of participating in a number of other summer enrichment programs available in the community. Savings are estimated at $110,000 a year, which is nearly two teaching positions.
Q. The proposals call for reducing the K-12 instrumental staff by one position. What will that mean for instrumental music in the District?
A. During the past few years, enrollment has declined in instrumental music. District administration will work with instrumental music staff to more efficiently allocate staff time moving forward. While caseloads may be slightly higher, the District expects to provide the same educational programming for students.
Q. You’ve recommended eliminating four bubble classes at the elementary level. What will that do to class sizes?
A. Out of 150 K-6 classrooms, the District will have only six classrooms that will have more than 25 students. This class size is manageable. The average size of a K-6 class is 20 students. The District will provide additional support in those classrooms where it is determined to be necessary.
EMAIL Dated February 29, 2016:
Dear Westside Families,
At tonight’s Board of Education meeting, I proposed nearly $4 million in expense reductions to close the gap between expenses and revenue. Any reductions are difficult, especially those that impact our staff; I do not propose them lightly. I met with teachers, administrators and other staff in order to gather their input prior to making these proposals. As a District, our objective was to minimize the impact on classrooms and students.
You will find details of these proposals on our website, westside66.org. We welcome your questions or comments on our budget. Please use the Let’s Talk link for this feedback.
Yours in Education,
Blane McCann, Ph.D.
Westside Community Schools