The Columbia school board heard from the public Wednesday night regarding the school district’s budget for the upcoming school year.
While most of the public was pleased to hear about the budget proposals, everyone who spoke also expressed their concerns about the elimination of German and Japanese languages class at high schools and middle schools by the end of the 2018- 2019 school year.
School administrators cite declining enrollments in those language courses as a reason for the elimination, but students, parents and teachers are unhappy.
Columbia Public Schools upcoming school year budget is $215,197,741 and the district will likely be spending a majority of that $212,727,830.
More cuts rather than additions will be happening in the next school year, including reducing the amount of out-of-state travel to conferences, supplies, technology and the custodial budget.
Some of the additions happening include Grant Elementary classroom aides, math curriculum and some interior items at Douglass High School.
“It’s probably as tight of a new budget as we put together in recent years,” Linda Quinley, chief financial officer said. “There is not a lot of extra in it.”
School board president Darin Preis was pleased with the budget outline that was given Wednesday.
“I think it’s setting us up in a right direction with the amount of money we are dealing with,” Preis said. “I do feel confident with the numbers we are seeing.”
Prior to the budget hearing, the schools’ finance committee met to start the discussion of planning for debt service management.
Meaning, that as the board starts planning for more upcoming projects members will access how much money they have and what they will have to go to the voters for.
Quinley said in the fall, the board will ask the public to prioritize which projects are needed the most. Overall officials say they are in a good position when it comes to money.
“For the past 10 years, we have really been playing catch-up with the building of schools, and renovating schools,” Quinley said. “Now we can start to see what’s next.”
Typically over a 10-year period, the board says they will go to the voters every other year for about $50 million for projects. As of now, the board says they might only need $100 million over the entire 10-year period.
“It’s dramatically reduced as to what it’s been in recent years,” Quinley said.
The next step is to have a world cafe in the fall to ask voters what they believe is more needed within the school districts.