The Riverview School Board continued to hash out ways to balance next school year's $17.9 million budget on Monday as the vote on a preliminary budget quickly approaches.
"Not a whole lot has changed [since the last meeting]," said district business manager Frank Thompson. "We are still looking at a 0.6386-mill real estate tax increase."
The current millage rate is 24.7864 mills. With the proposed tax increase, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $63 more next school year.
Over the past five years, explained Thompson, real estate tax increases have been at 0.5 to 0.6 mills. Some years it went down, although such drops were primarily due to a large number of teacher retirements in the same year.
Currently, the board is hopeful that the new Edgewater community will provide increased tax revenue for future years.
With the unknowns coming out of Harrisburg, the board continues to look at ways to offset next year's expenses.
"The legislature is talking about adding back money into the budget for education," Thompson said. "The governor may also see fit to put block grants back in the budget."
"We want to use time as an ally," said Superintendent Chuck Erdeljac, defending some of the cost-saving measures the board has considered.
However, the special education position at Verner Elementary, formerly under review, is now "taken off the table," Erdeljac indicated. "It is too valuable to the community."
The district's nursing positions may not be as fortunate. One "critical question" Erdeljac posed to the board was whether the district would maintain its nursing staff as is.
Currently, there are two certified nurses in the district and one registered nurse. Erdeljac questioned whether the older model of one certified nurse and two RNs might be more economical.
"By law we have to have a certified nurse for every 1,500 kids," Thompson said.
Thompson further explained that this number included parochial schools as well as public schools. However, even with this consideration, the district population is at 1,380, well below the requirement for more than one certified nurse.
That didn't sit well with some parents.
"So medical needs don't play a role?" asked Megan Collins, a parent attending the meeting. "My son has Type 1 diabetes, and he needs a great deal of nursing care each day. I personally feel it would be more of a liability issue to the district if anything happened to him."
Children still would have nursing care available to them under the new model, official said.
"The discussion is not that we would cut a nurse," Erdeljac said, reminding those present that the question was only the number of officially certified nurses the district would employ.
Other position changes previously discussed included the possible addition of a first grade teacher, a new custodian and cutting a guidance counselor.
Erdeljac said that David Zolkowski, principal at Tenth Street Elementary School, indicates he might not need another first grade teacher.
"We're waiting to see what the kindergartener numbers are in June," Erdeljac said.
A parent, concerned with a kindergarten class size of 19, questioned whether other expenditures, such as the $80,000 purchase of new band uniforms, was preventing the board from going forward with the hire of a new first grade teacher.
Board member Ernie Tillman said the band uniforms, if purchased, would be paid for from the district's $2.2 million fund balance.
"They are really two different parts of the budget," he explained. "There's an operating budget and a fund balance of 5 to 10 percent. We have had more than 10 percent and use that to pay for things that are non-recurring [like band uniforms]."
Erdeljac added that paraprofessionals, some of whom have teacher certifications, are also used in the classrooms to help reduce the teacher/student ratio.
"I'm not optimistic about another custodian," Erdeljac said. "We really don't want to cut a guidance counselor because of the needs of the kids."
The board is expected to approve a preliminary budget at its regular voting meeting on May 21 at 7 p.m. at the Riverview High School library.
On June 4 at 7 p.m., the school board will have a public hearing where community members can attend and voice their concerns regarding the preliminary budget. The meeting will be held at the central office along Tenth Street.
All districts are required by the state to have a final budget in place by the end of June.