The stalled national economy has finally come home to roost. The Sikeston R-6 School District - like just about all other districts across the state - is facing revenue cuts because of the dismal state of the economy.
Revenues for this school year are projected to be down $1.3 million from the prior school year and that will pose problems for the district going forward. And that is not necessarily the end of the story.
If the assessed valuation of the school district declines at an amount similar to losses realized in July 2009, the district will lose $400,000 in revenues from tax collections for fiscal year 2011. If sales tax losses follow the current trend, it is anticipated that the district will lose an additional $100,000 in state payments. And the current projection for fiscal year 2011 is at least 4 percent withholding of state formula money, a loss to the district in excess of $570,000.
There are a couple of possibilities for offsetting the loss in revenues and the effect on the district's financial health. First, an increase in the operating levy set by the district in the fall will generate new monies. The current recommendation is to add 20 cents to the levy which will generate approximately $400,000 based on the District's current assessed valuation. Any decrease in assessed valuation for the current year will reduce the amount of collections generated by the levy, resulting in an additional loss of revenue for the District. Second, the District will make some cuts in support staff and halt replacements of some staff positions as staff retires or resigns.
To their great credit, school officials here have seen the warning signs on the revenue front and are making plans to address this shortfall.
A list of 20 savings ideas is under consideration to address the reduction in revenues for our school district. Most of those changes will not be felt by the student population. But combined, they will address the economic realities we face.
Among the 20 ideas are reducing maintenance equipment purchases, no new bus purchases, no next textbook series purchases, a reduction in merit pay, and a halt on salary increases.
These are drastic but necessary cuts that will help to balance the school budget and stall more severe cuts. Hopefully the economy will improve and state funding will be restored in the future.
But today's realities force tough decisions.
Nothing is more important for a community than a quality school district. In Sikeston we have dedicated teachers and administrators who face challenges each day. The role of a school system should be the learning of the students. But those challenges require adequate funding.
Now is the time to tighten the belt. And that's exactly what our school system is doing.