Plymouth-Canton Community Schools officials on Tuesday discussed reducing the district's projected $18 million shortfall by using methods similar to those employed by the state.
But it won't be enough.
“We’re looking at a deficit of $10 (million) to $11 million that’s unresolved at this point,” said James Larson-Shidler, the district's assistant superintendent of business services. The state has cut funding to school districts by about $470 per pupil, which totals about $18 million of Plymouth-Canton's $162 million annual budget.
Larson-Shidler told the board members to expect "an overall decrease of 200 students."
New programs, including some form of schools of choice, would add students to the district, a net increase of 16 students, he said.
Larson-Shidler said another way to cut costs to the district is ask for employees to pay 4.2 percent more for retirement, a total of 24.46 percent of the contribution. “Each percent increase in the retirement rate is approximately $1 million in our budget,” Larson-Shidler said.
The proposed budget would include a hiring freeze, meaning no new positions in the next school year without the school board's review and approval.
The public hearing portion of Tuesday's meeting included concerns about funding cuts to a free early childhood program for disadvantaged 4-year-olds, known as the PLUS Preschool.
One parent, Michelle Foley of Canton, appealed to the board on behalf of the preschool's teachers and students. “These may be just teachers, but to any parents or students, they’re family," said Foley, whose daughter graduated from the school.
“We are not eliminating PLUS Preschool,” said Cindy Swift, assistant superintendent of instructional services. “We are looking for a way to fund it.”
Beth Sexton of Plymouth, a media specialist at Dodson Elementary School, asked the board to bolster her school's enrollment by transferring 200 students from Workman Elementary School to nearby Dodson.
Dodson is the second-youngest elementary school in the district, she said, and every classroom has about $110,000 worth of equipment. “But it is slowly being decimated by student population loss,” she said. “It will have seven empty classrooms next year.”
Interim Superintendent Jeremy Hughes said Sexton’s case put him in mind to take a look at school zoning and boundaries, which he said was "long overdue." Rezoning the school district has been discussed repeatedly this year, particularly while the board considered whether or not to close Fiegel Elementary.
The school board will finalize the 2011-12 budget at its June 28 meeting.