Brown County Schools’ enrollment is projected to drop by another 59 students districtwide next year.
It’s already dropped by 366 in the past nine years, and the district could lose another 310 students in the next nine years.
That’s why the district needs to cut about $1 million from its budget.
Superintendent Laura Hammack delivered that news to the school board and about 25 teachers and parents last week.
“I think the data tells the story,” she said. “We’re just too big right now as far as our staffing to be in line with the number of boys and girls we’re serving.”
That’s a trend that’s been showing for years, but the district continued to add staff, said Hammack, who was hired as superintendent last summer.
Since at least 2000, the birth rate in Brown County has been trending down and so has the number of school-age children residing in the district. The youngest potential students — up to age 4 — have decreased by 26.5 percent since 2000.
At the same time, the number of residents age 65 and older has increased by 58 percent, she said.
“Those folks aren’t having babies, so that’s not going to help us when we look at our long-term forecast for what our school district will look like here in the future,” Hammack said.
“This is going to be our reality. That is why we have to shrink our staff to be able to just meet the needs of the students we’re serving,” she said.
“That prevents losing a school.”
The last time the school board had to cut $1 million, in the fall of 2012, the decision was made to close Nashville Elementary and convert it into Brown County Intermediate School — a move that eliminated about a dozen jobs, mostly through attrition and retirements.
Enrollment and state funding have continued to decline since then. In the fall of 2012, the district had 1,977 students; it now has 1,866.
The general fund — which is the one that pays for teacher and staff salaries — is “overspent” by about $1.5 million based on revenue projections, Hammack said. Over the next two years, the district is on track to receive about $700,000 less in funding.
Already between the spring of 2016 and spring of 2017, the district has received $585,190 less from the state, which is largely based on enrollment.
The referendum Brown County voters approved last fall is helping to take care of the balance for now, Hammack said.
That additional property tax money was to provide raises to teachers and non-certified staff — which Hammack said she is still committed to doing. Brown County Schools needs to stay competitive with area districts and “honor our current team members for the great work that they are doing,” she said.
But if enrollment doesn’t go up next year, “we’re going to have to pare back again and pare back again,” she said.
Hammack presented several recommendations to the school board for how to reduce expenses by about $950,000.
The board didn’t take immediate action on any of them; they’re likely to be discussed at the May 4 meeting.
Estimated savings: $212,500
Hammack proposed eliminating eight-and-a-half of the district’s 52-and-a-half paraprofessional jobs, spread among schools. She said that number of classroom assistants is very high for a district of this size.
“What we need to do is to build the capacity of our general education teachers through a universal design for learning, so that we don’t just think that when we have a student who is struggling, that we need to just hire a para(professionals) in order to be paired with that student,” she said.
All elementaries and the intermediate school were projected to drop two paraprofessional; the high school would lose a half-time position and the junior high would stay the same.
Hammack said some paraprofessionals were planning to leave anyway, so the hope is that “everyone lands somewhere.”
Estimated savings: $177,485
All five certified preschool teachers at the three elementaries would be replaced with instructors who hold associate degrees. The plan is to reassign certified teachers who are not planning to retire to open jobs elsewhere in the district and hire preschool staff from Ivy Tech or another two-year program, Hammack said.
She said the preschool development grant that Brown County Schools recently won from Early Learning Indiana would not be affected, and she doesn’t believe the quality of services will be lessened because those instructors could receive professional development.
Estimated savings: $100,000
Several months ago the school board approved hiring substitute teachers through an outside company, Kelly Educational Staffing Services. This allowed those costs to be shifted to the capital projects fund, which is healthier than the general fund, Hammack said.
Special education teachers
Estimated savings: $95,478
Hammack said a special education teacher who had been teaching with an emergency permit will not be returning for next school year, so that job at Brown County Intermediate School will not be filled.
Another special education teacher at BCIS who was not going to return next school year also will not be replaced.
The moderate-to-severe special education classroom is projected to have four students next year — same as this year — and one teacher. It also will have eight paraprofessionals — two fewer than this year — if Hammack’s recommendations are accepted.
Nonessential teacher trips
Estimated savings: $60,000
The district spent $93,600 in 2016 for teachers and staff to go on “professional development” trainings and conferences. Hammack’s recommendation is to cut this back to only those that are grant-funded or required for certifications.
Cutting CRC program
Estimated savings: $58,000
About nine students are currently enrolled in the Alternative to Homebound program at the Brown County Career Resource Center, though that number fluctuates, Hammack said. She proposes eliminating that teacher position and folding the program back into the high school.
“We have no control like we would at a normal school,” she said about the program currently. “I see students in the parking lot; I just worry about their safety.”
She said a junior high school teacher may be moved to teach those students.
Special contract crunch
Estimated savings: $54,603
Hammack proposed eliminating a half-time speech-language pathologist job ($22,500); cutting additional support that a retired teacher had been providing to the high school foreign language department while another teacher was getting advanced certifications ($20,103); and discontinuing the contract for a retired teacher who had been helping to run the district’s website and produce video projects ($12,000).
Those jobs can be covered by existing teachers and staff, she said.
Estimated savings: at least $50,000
The district has paid $92,218 in overtime wages this school year through March, Hammack said. That includes teachers and non-certified staff like custodians.
For some staff, getting overtime is a given because of the way their job is structured, she said. But that expenditure needs to be cut by at least $50,000 and the rest reserved for emergency needs, she said.
Estimated savings: $50,000
The district already has been switching to career and technical education courses that could be reimbursable by the state, as opposed to offering other, similar types of courses.
Van Buren first grade
Estimated savings: $44,000
Enrollment projections show 28 first-graders at Van Buren Elementary for next school year, versus 40 this year.
Hammack is recommending having only one first-grade classroom at this school. She said one teacher at Van Buren was not planning to return, so that job will not be filled.
Twenty-eight will be the largest class size at any elementary. There have been two classrooms of each grade level in each school, but for next school year, there will be three classes of first-graders and three classes of fourth-graders at Sprunica Elementary, each with 19 to 21 students.
Last May, the school board briefly discussed moving the boundaries for the elementaries to even out enrollment but decided to add an additional teacher at Sprunica instead.
Extra teacher duties
Estimated savings: $26,371
Sixteen teachers — two per school — are being paid extra stipends to serve as instructional team leaders. Hammack proposed cutting that budget by $16,051, leaving two in the high school and one in all other buildings.
The district also pays one teacher in each building to serve as technology leaders or instructional technology coaches. She proposed eliminating the building technology leader positions, which cost the district a total of $10,320.
Summer school shift
Estimated savings: $25,000
The district had been offering summer classes to some special education students through the Extended School Year program. Calling it “summer school” instead will allow those costs to be reimbursed, Hammack said.
Total projected savings: $958,437
District staff attended a meeting to hear the recommendations at 4 p.m. Monday.
“What I would love to say to you tonight is that we’re done this year, that we won’t need to look at cuts in the future. I would love to say that to you, but I can’t say that,” she told the school board meeting audience.
“We’re going to need to be responsible for years to come, and very much think about the ways we are allocating our resources.”