Rockwood Budget: Will Library Book Funds Get Frozen?
A list of 20 budgetary items were presented at the Rockwood School District Board of Education meeting Thursday evening. Some were taken off the list by Rockwood Superintendent Bruce Borchers. Reserves now will be tapped.
Seventh on the list of 20 proposed budgetary cuts for fiscal school year 2013-2014 at Rockwood School District's Board of Education meeting Thursday was: "Freeze funds for library book purchases." An estimated crowd of 200 booked it to the meeting to participate in this budget discussion, including two of Rockwood's librarians—who spoke against withdrawing financial support to the district's libraries.
Melissa Twombly, librarian at Lafayette High School in Wildwood, explained to Rockwood's education directors it took a decade of struggling for the district's librarians to meet current needs. She said many schools were lucky to have parent-teacher organizations that assisted with goals, but that it led to inconsistency and lack of equity across the district.
"Reading is alive and well at Rockwood, at all levels, with hundreds of thousands items circulating," Twombly said.
"But I am concerned the proposed freeze on library book purchases would outdate our libraries quickly."
Rockwood students want to read what’s current and popular, and she said a freeze would prevent students from having those type of books for the next school year. "We won’t have popular book series. And many of our students await the new nominees in awards series, but they would not be able to participate in them, which is unbelievable to me," she said.
Twombly said libraries play important roles in common core standards, helping students via their own choices and at their own levels.
Susan Ferguson, library media specialist at Fairway Elementary School in Wildwood, said Rockwood's libraries had become beautiful places to promote 21st century skills. "There must be an impression that once a library is set up, it’s set up once and for all. But libraries are fluid rooms."
Ferguson pulled a variety of books from a box at the meeting to represent the range needed, and highlighted how quickly books are outdated—using Pluto as a planet, then not, as an example. She said sports books change every year, as well as science curriculums.
She said students will be expecting the newest Magic Treehouse series, and that she routinely gets requests about what books to secure from a variety of sources, such as teachers for classroom books, recommendations from music teachers and parent school committees.
Ferguson said librarians also need money to replace DVDs, videos and books that have been vomited on.
"Library funding is the lowest it's been in past 15 years, but I guarantee the price of books is not going down," she said.
Teachers' wish lists for non-fiction books are so essential to common core studies, she said.
"Our libraries are one of the main rooms in the schools that all 22,000 students have access to. It's important to understand how libraries work, that they are about constant change," said Ferguson.
Rockwood Board of Education president Janet Strate said previous financial-related discussions had set the stage for this discussion. She reminded there had been two tracks for budgetary considerations, and that on Thursday night, they had the opportunity for the two tracks to converge.
Board vice president Matt Doell said Rockwood has to "live within our revenue stream," and said discussions should turn to what it would take to do that if factors do not change.
Although the Rockwood budget doesn't have to be approved until June, Strate said the directors needed to provide Superintendent Bruce Borchers with recommendations to consider. The directors did not take a formal vote at Thursday's meeting, but did voice some opinions and asked questions.
The list provided at the meeting, as prioritized from the recent Picture Rockwood process, was as follows:
|1||Reduce district-level departments' supplies and services budgets.||$2,216,430|
|2||Reduce the budget allocation for supplies and services to schools.||300,000|
|3||Implement a new budget approach called "recapture."
|4||Charge self-funded programs and grants for indirect costs.
|5||Retire Lease/Purchase debt in FY13.
|6||Increase full-day kindergarten tuition.
|7||Freeze funds for library book purchases.
|8||Reduce elementary and high school full-time equivalents (FTE) by 15.43, due to declining enrollment.||1,080,100|
|9||Reduce Central Services positions.
|10||Eliminate the number of extended contract days for Family and Consumer Services (FACS) teachers.
|11||Reduce the number of extra contract days by 10 for Cooperative Career Education (CCE) teachers.
|12||Reduce support staff positions: custodians.
|13||Reduce support staff positions: secretaries.
|14||Reduce support staff positions: maintenance/grounds.
|15||Eliminate kindergarten component of Gifted Program at Center for Creative Learning (CCL).
|16||Increase class sizes at the CCL.
|17||Increase elementary class sizes.
|18||Reduce a full team to one half team at Rockwood Valley Middle School.
|19||Reduce high school staff by four full-time equivalents (FTE).
|20||Increase the distance for providing bus transportation to an estimated distance of 1.5 miles.
Borchers referenced the many discussions over the six weeks about budgets, indicating he wanted to take care of "things we don't want to do." So he recommended removing items 12-20 from the budget cuts, and instead using the district's fund balance to off-set those things.
Doell said that means they would be taking some funds out of reserves, as a temporary measure, to handle items such as staffing. The directors agreed, which would equal roughly $2 million coming out of reserves.
Borchers also removed item No. 5, until further details could be secured. When he suggested removing item No. 7—the line about freezing library funds—the audience burst into applause.
That left items 1-4, 6 and 8 for potential cuts.
Strate said staffing points (FTE) are based on enrollments, what they are anticipating and not proposed cuts. She said it would be hoped to be handled through attrition.
Borchers said he believed they should keep item No. 9 in reducing Central Services positions, as well as items 10 and 11.
Doell said the goal of the evening was to "give guidance," and that the district's fiscal future still is not certain.
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