4-day weeks, outsourcing among suggestions for cutting schools budget

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Cutting the school week by a day and contracting janitorial and other such services were among several suggestions offered to trim the Indian River County School District’s budget.

The district is facing a budget shortfall that could range between $8 million and $12 million – depending on the end result of the state’s budgetary decisions.

School District Chief Financial Officer Carter Morrison presented a small group of about a dozen citizens the budget outlook for the coming fiscal year and asked them for ideas on where to trim – “save our way out of this,” he said.

One woman, who declined to give her name, suggested the district look into switching to a four-day school week.

“We can look into that,” Morrison replied.

Ken Penny, a fellow citizen, cautioned that such a cut might not be possible due to regulations pertaining to food service.

Another woman, who also declined to give her name, supported the idea of a four-day school week, noting that not having school one day a week would cut down on operational and transportation costs, as well as save on electric utilities.

She later added that, though it could be a hard sale for some parents, if the district marketed the change as an alternative to losing school programs, parents might be more receptive.

“Most parents would rather have the programs,” she said.

Teacher, parent and Indian River County Education Association representative Denise Colon cautioned the district that four-day school weeks would not work for those with young students. However, she said, it could be an option for the high school or perhaps the middle school students.

The woman who supported the four-day school week also suggested the district explore its options in outsourcing support services, such as janitorial services, maintenance and food service.

“No one wants to lose their jobs,” she said, but added that if the district could contract out those services and pay on an “as needed” basis, there would be no need to pay benefits.

Deputy Superintendent Michael Degutis said the district was starting to move in that direction as a result of cutting many non-instructional employees. He agreed that the district should consider the option and explore that possibility.

Penny voiced concerns about the district’s textbooks, questioning whether the district makes the most of them before purchasing new. He used universities as an example of waste for textbooks, as publishers make minor changes and professors require the latest text for their classes.

Morrison said that the district would review the issue.

Colon suggested the district consider increasing the seventh period supplement as an enticement to get more teachers to teach a seventh period class.

Doing so would eliminate the need for one full-time position and the benefits assigned to that position, which would result in a net savings for the district, she said.

The School Board plans to hold a workshop next week to discuss the 2011-12 budget. Input provided during the two town hall meetings and suggestions submitted through the School District’s website could be included in that discussion.

Suggestions and comments pertaining to the School District’s budget can be submitted via the district’s website by clicking HERE.

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