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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Island Middle School faces possible budget cuts

The Island Middle School board of directors faced news this week that the school's operating budget is dwindling. The budgetary bottom line presented by accountant Julie Krokroskia at the board's Feb. 17 meeting shows IMS is $27,000 "in the hole."

"It's not a pleasant place to be," Krokroskia told the board as she explained how the school's funds have dipped.

According to Krokroskia, the school's budget was based on an average enrollment of 115 students, for which the school anticipated receiving a little more than $3,000 per student in Florida Education Finance Program funding.

The FEFP funding is calculated based on the number of Full-Time Equivalent students in attendance during FTE week in October and February.

Krokroskia said in October the FTE count showed IMS had 114 students in attendance, but when the FTE count was taken this month student attendance was down to 102. For the budget, this results in a loss of approximately $40,000 in FTE revenue.

Krokroskia explained that the school receives an FTE check each month. At first the dollar amount is based on projected enrollment and adjusted to match the actual student attendance calculated during FTE week in October. However, in February when the numbers dropped, the FTE funds were adjusted for what was overpaid earlier in the year. The end result is $40,000 less than the school was planning for its income.

According to Krokroskia, the original budget prepared by Gary Hughes also counted on $60,000 in fundraising, which has not taken place during the school year.

Krokroskia advised the board that it needs to consider that the school currently has 91 students enrolled and it's staffed to accommodate 120 students. She suggested teachers reshuffle their schedules and staff double up on duties.

"If teachers don't want to take a cut in pay," Krokroskia said, "perhaps they can pick up an elective or two."

Krokroskia also pointed out that the administration at the school is "top heavy."

"No offense, but you have five people working on administration and last year there were two," she said.

She suggested the board look at doing more work in-house or through parent volunteers rather than spending $20,000 on a consultant, for example.

"The reality is if you're staffed for 120 students and you're down to 91, you can't pay this many people," Krokroskia advised.

Some of the pitfalls in the budget are also a result of rising utility bills, legal fees and teacher resignations.

Krokroskia reported that the school store has not generated as much revenue as anticipated and that the school should reconsider paying for future field trips and ask the parents to kick in the fees.

She also suggested the board hire a long-term substitute to teach math and social studies for the rest of the year because it would be a less expensive alternative to hiring a full-time teacher on a full salary with benefits.

Parsons raised concerns about attracting quality teachers to the school given Krokroskia's budget report. She also expressed concern about letting any more staff go due to budget restrictions given the number of changes the staff and students have already endured.

"I'm not suggesting this is a way to get good teachers," Krokroskia said, "I'm just speaking in terms of what the budget can afford. A lot of the little things the school has done this year that are nice, like hiring staff to manage the lunch room, are costing us too much. This year administrative expenses are at least 50 percent more than last year.

"We need to tighten the belt. It's hard, and it might not be ideal, but it has to be done."