Times have been tight for everyone since the economic down turn in 2008. The Caesar Rodney School District has not escaped feeling the pinch.
Dr. Ada Carter, director of business and finance, said the district has been preparing for a reduction in state funding. She said careful use of state and federal funds have kept the district going without having to make major cuts. However, there may be some tough decisions facing the school district in the coming years.
According to a presentation made by Carter at the school board’s work session on Wednesday, the district received $1,074,956 less from the state in 2012 than it did in 2008. During that period, federal stimulus funding helped fill the gap, but it was clear to officials the district was dealing with a funding reduction.
Carter said she knew money was getting tight, so she and the board at the time set up a list of sustainability goals. The district’s goal was to retain staffing and programming as long as possible, with a combination of what she described shrewd budgeting and saving. During that period of time, the district was able to add to its contingency fund – a fund the district has been tapping into since last year.
“We’ve lost money over the years,” said Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald. “It’s very much like a dam with a leak, every year the hole gets bigger and the plug gets a little smaller, you’re able to hold back the ocean but you know that things are going to start to crumble and you’re going to have problems eventually we need to plan for the future.”
In her presentation, Carter gave the board three possible temporary solutions to consider, using additional reserve funds, using tuition funds (money designated to provide for special education students) to cover the local portion of the salaries of teachers serving special education students or “hold teachers” out of the classroom in favor of using substitutes. For every one teacher the district holds, they are able to fund 180 substitute days, which amounts to $20,000, according to Carter.
The other issue that the school district is facing is space.
Caesar Rodney High School is currently at its maximum capacity and other district schools are following the same trend and are very close to being at capacity.
“If the numbers are correct we will be way overcrowded in the next three years at McIlvaine,” Fitzgerald said.
According to Fitzgerald, adding trailers at the high school to house students is not an ideal solution.
“They could use for trailers to house students but it wouldn’t help congestion in the hallways so that’s not a solution,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - “They suck up energy to no end,” School Board Vice President David Henderson said.
However board member Melody Heavner reminded the board that a school can’t be built in a day.
“Any new building is not happening next year, it’s a five year thing,” she said.
Nothing final has been decided on any of the district’s financial issues. Carter said she used the workshop to implore the board to draft goals for the district that she hoped would ultimately guide their decisions going forward.