CATLIN — School officials are considering eliminating eight to 10 teaching positions in the district next year as a way to reduce expenses and have eliminated one of the district's three administrative positions.
Starting with the 2013-14 school year, Superintendent Gary Lewis will also take over the duties as principal of Catlin High School and its 169 students. The Catlin school board's decision last week may reduce expenses in the district by as much as $70,000 to $80,000 a year, Lewis said, although the actual amount of the reduction will not be known until later.
"This is not something that the board took lightly," Lewis said.
The $4.5 million 2012-13 budget, which was adopted by the board in September, includes a $570,000 deficit in the education fund alone, which would reduce the reserves in that fund to under $400,000.
Lewis said the equalized assessment of property in the district is fairly flat, so local property taxes are not generating much additional money.
Even though the district is spending less than it did last year, the state keeps reducing the amount it pays to the district. The district received about 95 percent of what it expected two years ago, about 89 percent of what it expected last year, and Lewis said he hears it may only receive 80 percent of what is expected this year. That could cost the district a total of $600,000.
Besides restructuring the administrator roles, school officials are considering eliminating four or five certified teaching positions and four or five non-certified teaching positions next year as well as further reducing the purchase of supplies, combining travel (such as the baseball and softball teams, which currently ride to games in the same towns in separate buses), cutting the fifth- and sixth-grade basketball program and increasing the $15 sports fee for students.
Lewis said his goal is to cut $300,000 to $350,000 in expenses this year, and that he approached the board about restructuring the administrative positions.
"It buys us some time," he said.
Kevin Thomas has served as the principal of Catlin High since the 2005-06 school year. He spent 12 years before that in the Rossville-Alvin Community Unit District, where he taught science and physical education, served as athletic director, dean of students and finally principal of Rossville-Alvin High School.
The school board voted last week to extend Lewis' contract as superintendent through the 2015-16 school year, but Lewis said they have not talked about compensation yet. Serving as superintendent and principal will significantly increase the duties of that administrator.
Also, in the Catlin school district, Thomas' years as principal count as his tenure, Lewis said, and he could take a teaching job in the district. Both of those factors would affect how much actual savings the district sees from the board's decision.
In other business, Lewis said he is still considering pulling the Catlin school district out of the National School Lunch Program in order to gain more freedom in lunch offerings.
Lewis said the program's rules are very restrictive, and he has heard multiple complaints from students and parents about the new lunch offerings.
Although the district is not required to follow the national program, the state reimburses districts that do follow it — about half the cost of each full-price meal, and almost the whole cost of meals for students who receive free lunches because of their household income. Lewis said lunch prices might have to increase to offset those lost state reimbursements.