Troubled school district proposes $3M in cuts

BELLEFONTAINE NEIGHBORS, Mo. (AP) — Riverview Gardens School District officials proposed several budget cuts to help offset some of the $15 million costs associated with losing its accreditation and having to pay for students to enroll elsewhere if they wanted to leave.

The roughly $3 million in cuts officials outlined Tuesday would enable the suburban St. Louis district to avoid laying off teachers. The district would freeze 15 unfilled positions and not replace others who leave, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The plan also cuts the professional development budget, modifies the bus contract and finds savings in areas such as technology and facilities.

Riverview Gardens and the nearby Normandy school districts are cutting their budgets because both lost state accreditation due to poor performance based on low student test scores and other metrics. A Missouri Supreme Court ruling this summer allows students in unaccredited districts to transfer — at the districts’ cost for tuition and transportation.

For Riverview Gardens, if transfer expenses remain the same in the 2014-15 school year, the district would be $7.1 million in the red.

“I don’t know where we’re at if we don’t get assistance for 2014-15,” said Enos Moss, finance director for the district. “We will be bankrupt.”

About 2,200 students in both districts have enrolled in higher performing school systems.

Normandy Superintendent Ty McNichols was scheduled on Thursday to present to the school board a reduction plan that could include teacher cuts and possibly a school closure. The Post-Dispatch reported that more than 100 district employees could lose their jobs, with class sizes increased to as many as 29 students and Bel-Nor Elementary School slated for closure.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is asking lawmakers for a $6.8 million supplementary budget request to help Normandy remain solvent through the end of the school year.

The financial situation in Riverview Gardens is less dire, but Moss presented the district’s Special Administrative Board with a grim picture.

In addition to the costs of the transfer program, property assessments are down 18-24 percent, depending on the area. Riverview Gardens officials expected to spend $5.5 million more than the district brought in this year. The district paid more than $2 million in tuition and transportation expenses for August and September.

Lynn Beckwith, president of the Special Administrative Board, said attrition isn’t the only way to cut staff.

“It may come to a point where active positions are cut also,” he said.


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