STANFORD — After all the humanity on display during Tuesday night's Lincoln County Board of Education meeting, it seemed the only thing in the room left unmoved was the bottom line: budget cuts are going to be made somewhere, and it's not going to be painless.
After announcing last month a preliminary plan to save approximately $270,000 by eliminating the equivalent of six full-time teachers, Superintendent Karen Hatter submitted to the board a complete recommendation for cuts to the 2013-14 budget, including an additional $245,000 in savings that come mainly from reducing the number of days school employees work.
"I believe that budget cuts and making decisions about budget cuts is going to be the hardest thing that we could ever do," Hatter said. "That's mainly because when I look at the people that are attached to the budget cuts, I care about each and every one of them."
The roughly $515,000 in cuts would only be the first step in a three-year plan to eliminate as much as $1.6 million from the general fund budget and reduce the percentage of the general fund going to salaries to 75 percent, Hatter said.
Last school year, the district spent approximately 81 percent of its general fund expenditures on salaries, she added.
"We started with our auditor, who said you need to cut $1 million to $1.6 million in the next three years, because if you keep spending without that stimulus money that you had to cover your expenses … you're going to spend out your contingency fund," she said.
Hatter said there are other districts in the state who have not corrected course and essentially zeroed out their contingency funds. Those districts have been taken over by the state and are in "real financial crisis," she said.
"We are trying to avert that for our district," she said.
The board heard from school employees and discussed Hatter's recommendation Tuesday night, but no action was taken. If implemented as proposed, the complete recommendation would:
• cut six full-time teachers' salaries and benefits from the general fund;
• cut employees who are contracted to work for 260 days per year down to 250 days;
• cut all bus driver contracts to 180 days;
• cut one day from all remaining employees not on a 180- or 250-day contract;
• cut one six-hour-per-day employee from the district office;
• remove the cost of half a district office employee from the general fund by transferring it to the food service budget;
• eliminate one secretary position at Stanford Elementary School;
• cut the number of "extended days" — days worked before and after the official school year — for elementary school counselors from 11 to five; and
• cut the number of extended days for school librarians from 14 to five.
Hatter said the recommendations are largely based on "un-biased" suggestions from other superintendents and education officials outside the district who "aren't necessarily connected emotionally like I am."
But Hatter said she couldn't bear to make some of the cuts those outside sources recommended. One suggestion was to cut all 260-day employees down to no more than 240 days.