Patrons of Milan schools concerned
Many cuts proposed for Milan schools

Beth Rumsey

Staff Writer

Emotions were high as Interim Superintendent Steve Gookins presented his recommendations for reductions and cuts for the calendar year 2010 at a special meeting at the Milan Elementary School on Tuesday, April 13. According to Interim Superintendent Gookins, there is an estimated $365,000 needed to begin the 2010-2011 school year.

“The goal is to keep Milan School Corporation solvent, protect academic programs, and to be the most efficient with the finances,” Gookins said.

According to Gookins, about 85 percent of the general fund budget is slated for salaries. He has also met with certified and non-certified personnel, as well as reviewing all citizen check lists returned to the office and met with any parent that requested a meeting.

Currently, the state provides funding for the schools and is no longer based on property taxes as in the past. The state provides about $5400 per student, which follows the student when moving to another school.

Funds are determined by an average daily membership of students with kindergarten counting as half. According to calculations made by Gookins, there was a total of 1229.5 students enrolled in September. As of the day of the meeting, there were 23 fewer students attending Milan schools.

Declining enrollment is a concern, according to Gookins. Currently, there are 106 seniors and 68 kindergarten students. “Enrollment is a big factor when the state gives the funds,” said Gookins.

The following non-certified recommendations, which includes custodians, secretaries, and instructional aides, were made:

• Reduce non-certified wages by 6 percent effective July 1.

• Reduce the number of hours as needed with volunteer reductions considered first.
• Eliminate the Speech Language Assistant position, which is shared with South Ripley School Corporation.

• Do not fill any vacancies due to retirement or voluntary termination.

• Eliminate the non-certified pay scheduled and develop an evaluation system based on performance instead of longevity.

Recommended cuts for the administrative staff included:

• Pay the interim superintendent salary of $8500 per month out of capital projects fund instead of the general fund.

• Place all administrative staff and directors on Plan C health insurance, which will not see any savings until January 1, 2011. According to Gookins, the administrative staff currently pays $1 per year for their health insurance as part of their benefits package. The change will take place when the insurance carrier allows the change.

• Reduce two administrative positions effective July 1. One administrator will return to the classroom full time and the other will return to the classroom part time until the end of the contract on June 30, 2011.

• Eliminate the board monthly stipend effective May 1 for a savings of $3500.

• Freeze salaries/wages at the July 1, 2008 level and eliminate the administrative salary schedule.

Cuts recommended for the certified staff include:

• Reduce 8 teaching positions. Gookins noted that one teacher is retiring and another position is currently filled by a full time substitute and will not be replaced.

• Two positions will be taken by administrative staff bringing a net reduction of 6 certified positions. According to Gookins, this is approximately an 8 percent reduction in the teaching staff.

• There are additional savings expected due to a tentative agreement with the Milan Educators Association negotiations. More information was not available at the time of the meeting, according to Gookins.

Other suggestions for reductions include dropping summer school, but offer credit recovery to high school students through Indiana Virtual Academy at no cost to the school or student. Also, use a Gifted and Talented grant for AP salaries vs. stipends for GT coordinators.

It was recommended to raise drivers’ education fees $50. Gookins noted that this course is offered as a courtesy and is not required by the state for credit. “I believe the program should be self-sustaining,” he said.

Snow removal and mowing contracts were moved from the general fund to the capital project fund and bid on an hourly basis as opposed to a contracted amount in the past. According to school board president Tim Tuttle, in 2009 the cost for snow removal was $20,000. Since bidding on an hourly basis, snow removal only cost the school about $6,000.

Also recommended, the transfer of funds from bus replacement, transportation, and food service as per HB1367 to set up a rainy-day fund.

The fifth grade was recommended to continue at the elementary school to balance the administrative duties and will incur no savings.

Gookins concluded that he and the board will continue to explore savings in utilities, dues, and other areas.

There are financial expenses that affect the total savings if the recommendations are implemented. For example, lane changes, health insurance, severance for the retiring teacher, and payment of unemployment insurance for dismissed employees for 16 weeks in 2010.

After the liabilities are considered, an estimated savings for the school corporation will be $308,200 leaving an additional $56,800 to begin the 2010-2011 school year.

The recommendations will be carefully considered by the board, according to Gookins, for a decision to be made at the regular board meeting on Monday, April 19 beginning at 7 p.m. at the Milan Elementary School.

Several patrons had the opportunity to speak out and ask questions during the public comment portion of the meeting. One main concern was about the special ed program.
MSC is contracted with ROD (Ripley, Ohio, Dearborn) in Sunman for assistance with the special ed program. Gookins noted that funding at ROD is being reduced, which in turn affects Milan. Parents are also concerned about the termination of a middle school special education teacher which requires moving students to the high school or the elementary.

When questioned about the physical education program, Gookins noted that the state required PE class will continue, but other PE program considered electives will be eliminated.

Gookins assured the patrons attending that his goal is to protect the financial integrity of Milan schools. At a special meeting held earlier this year, Gookins explained that if a school is not financially solvent then the state will take over the school.

“I don’t look back,” continued Gookins. “I’m not blaming anyone We have to look forward.”

The power point presentation on the recommended cuts and reductions can be found by visiting the Milan School Corporation website at Gookins noted that a summary of the teacher negotiations will be available on the website at a later date.

There was standing room only as several patrons of the Milan School Corporation listened to recommended reductions in order to remain solvent and protect academic programs. The meeting was held Tuesday, April 12 in the elementary cafeteria.