The Board of Education may vote tonight (Wednesday) on whether to support School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser’s budget proposal as it is or make changes before it goes to the finance board.

Tonight’s meeting, which is the third of three budget workshops the board has held since receiving Feser’s proposal, will take place at 7 p.m. in the school board conference room at the Parsons Complex.

Dr. Feser has proposed a $91.17 million spending plan for 2015-16, up 2.19% from the current $89.21 million budget.

Challenging year

Feser said it was especially challenging to create the new budget because of the costs associated with reconfiguring the elementary schools. Responding to parent pleas, the Board of Education recently directed the administration to put the schools back to a kindergarten to grade five structure.

“Some people think you just go back,” Feser said when she presented her plan last week, but she added that the reconfiguration is a “very complex process.”

Feser's plan calls for hiring 16 regular classroom teachers and 3.5 specialists, such as music and physical education teachers, which amounts to $1.17 million.

“The additional staffing is needed as every grade level will now be housed in eight schools rather than four, and there is a loss of economy of scale,” she said.

There have been changes since 2010 when the schools were last configured K-5 ; so Feser said she doesn't view the reconfiguration as “going back to K-5 but rather moving forward to a preK-5.”

Other budget increases

In addition to the reconfiguration expenses in the proposed 2015-16 budget proposal, Feser is asking for two additional school resource officers at a cost of $75,000; a security coordinator at $70,000 and three greeters at the middle schools, at a cost of $49,500.

Feser also wants to hire an academic support specialist for each high school to work in a new support center, providing academic support and intervention to students throughout the day. Those posts amount to $120,000.

Savings

Altogether, costs under the 2015-16 budget proposal increase spending $2.38 million over the current year. But Feser said she has outlined savings that amount to $2.01 million, some of them due to projected enrollment decline.

Reducing 13.4 existing teaching positions would save $804,000; cutting five special education teachers saves another $300,000; and cutting four part-time media aides cuts $40,000.

Teacher reductions would not necessarily result in layoffs, she said, because there could be movement to cover the new teaching positions required at the elementary level.

Budget steps

After the school board adopts a budget plan, that plan goes to the Board of Finance in February for review and then to the Board of Aldermen in April, in preparation for adopting a new city/school budget mid-May.