The people of Baxter will have one final opportunity to have their voices heard tonight before final decisions will be made regarding the Baxter Community School District’s budget for the coming academic year.
The cuts come as the result of falling enrollment — a loss of 50 students over the course of two years, amounting to 8.2 percent of the district’s total students.
“This goes back to our enrollment,” Baxter Community School District Superintendent Matt Patton said. “Our enrollment declined by 50 students in the last two years. Driven by our enrollment, we have to adjust the budget.”
Patton explained that, as a result of the decline in enrollment, the Baxter School Board has requested $200,000 be cut from next year’s budget. Therefore, he compiled a list of 16 recommendations for reducing the district’s spending next year. While the full list will be available at tonight’s meeting, many of the items pertain to a reduction in staff and personnel.
“Nobody wants to eliminate staff, but the reality is that we have to cut money to stay financially viable as a district,” he said.
His recommendations include a 22-percent reduction in both transportation and custodial/maintenance staff, a 17-percent reduction in administration, a 7-percent reduction in paraprofessional staff, and a 5-percent reduction in teaching staff.
While none of Patton’s recommendations include eliminating entire programs, such as band or music, the decision is ultimately up to the Baxter School Board at its Jan. 21 meeting.
“The board essentially has three options,” Patton said. “They can accept my list of recommendations, they can take some off the list, or they can add things to it if they feel we need to cut even deeper.”
Patton explained that the town hall-style meeting is merely the last step in an extensive process the district has employed to disseminate as much information regarding the cuts to the public as possible.
“We’ve been talking about this throughout the district in numerous formats and online surveys and email blasts,” Patton said. “The board has been talking for three months, so this is the last opportunity for the public to make their voices heard.”
“We’ve had many smaller meetings,” he added. “For example, Tuesday I spoke at the music boosters meeting for an hour, and we’ve had several open board meetings. The school district is the biggest employer in our community, so I’ve shared information with entire staff and gotten the word out there. (Tonight) will be a public forum and opportunity for the public to ask questions, give input and seek answers.”
The meeting will be tonight at 7 p.m. at the Baxter City/School Library and will be open to the public.
Staff writer Nicole Wiegand may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 422, or at email@example.com.