DANVILLE — The possibility of a Jan. 2 fiscal cliff could mean cuts of up to $500,000 for the Danville school district next year.
The school district received a little more than $5.85 million in federal funding for Title I and Title II, special education, preschool and career and technical education programs this fiscal year.
"We don't know what the exact amount would be," Superintendent Mark Denman said, adding local districts could see anywhere from a 7.8 percent cut in funding — meaning a $456,606 loss to the district — to a 9.1 percent cut — meaning a $532,708 loss.
"It would be bad news for our school district, especially with the other bad financial news we've received," Denman continued.
Earlier this month officials learned the district's equalized assessed valuation is expected to decrease by 5.4 percent next year. Under a 2012 tax levy, officials expect to generate only about $15.5 million in property taxes next year, down $712,000 from this year.
"This has always been the safe money," special education Director John Hart said, adding the district is "hoping for the best but preparing for a worst-case scenario."
Denman said it's still too early to say what cuts would be made. First on the chopping block would be supplies, including technology. Title 1 funds have been used to put interactive whiteboards including eno boards and Promethean boards, laptops, clickers and other high-tech tools into classrooms throughout the district.
Next would be professional development.
"We hate to do that," Hart said of cutting staff development. "We want the best teachers, psychologists, social workers and speech and language pathologists. We want everyone to be up-to-date on best practices and a lot of that comes from professional development."
Denman said staff cuts would be "a last resort."
"We are going to try our best to avoid any staff cuts that would impact instruction in the classroom. But if the fiscal cliff isn't averted, we may have to do that," he said, adding that Title I funds, used to help disadvantaged children reach academic standards, and special education funding would take the hardest hits.
The district received about $3.44 million in Title I funds and about $1.69 million in special education funds this year. The fiscal cliff could mean a cut in Title 1 funds of $268,436 to $313,176 and in special education funds of $131,881 to $153,861.
"With $300,000 in cuts, you pretty much have to go line by line," educational support programs Director Diane Hampel said, referring to the possible Title I funding loss.
Among other things, Title I funding pays for data instructional facilitators in the elementary and middle schools to gather, analyze and use student assessment data to help teachers know where to focus instruction and interventions. It's also used to pay for instructional teaching assistants in the elementary schools and help fund the district's new family resource center, aimed at supporting families.
The district also stands to lose between $10,391 to $12,123 in career and technical education money; $6,861 and $8,005 in preschool money; and $39,036 to $45,542 in Title II funds, money that the district uses to keep class size low.
"If we lost that, that would be one less teacher that's there to lower class size," Denman said.
What is the fiscal cliff?
The "fiscal cliff" refers to the wholesale expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and the simultaneous implementation of across-the-board spending cuts. The potential spending reductions, to be divided between military and domestic programs, were locked into place more than a year ago in hopes the threat would have forced a compromise on a deficit reduction deal before now. Economists in and out of government warn that sending the economy over the "cliff" would trigger a recession. To avoid the danger, President Obama and Congress are hoping to devise a plan that can reduce future deficits by as much as $4 trillion in a decade, cancel the tax increases and automatic spending cuts and expand the government's ability to borrow beyond the current limit of $16.4 trillion.