Jordan School Board announced $4.3 million in budget cuts Tuesday that will add approximately one child to every classroom in the district, eliminating at least 52 positions and specifically affect 19 programs.
The cuts virtually discount any raises for district personnel in the 1988-89 school year and will "cut into the bone and marrow" of many programs, decreasing quality of education in the district, officials said.In what he said was the "most difficult announcement I've had to make as superintendent," Raymond Whittenburg told the board that after a review of the district budget "we've had to cut deep into the heart of our organization."
The reductions will shrink student services, make greater demands on staff and impact on physical facilities.
The board did not officially act on the budget, but Whittenburg said the cuts were being announced to emphasize the magnitude of the budget problem and prepare district personnel for the slashing that will become official at the next meeting of the board. A public hearing will be set.
The cuts included an $825,000 reduction in special education programs that was announced two weeks ago.
"For the past few years, we've had to make cuts, robbing Peter to pay Paul," Whittenburg said. "The ripple effect has caught up with us."
The cuts announced Tuesday amount to more than 3 percent of the district maintenance and operation budget, Whittenburg said.
Board members saddened by Tuesday's distasteful business said they hoped state officials who have tentatively targeted any budget surpluses to be returned to taxpayers would look again.
"I am saddened to think that any tax windfall would go back to the taxpayers," while local districts are cutting programs to the bare bones, said Board President Maurine Jensen. The $20 to $100 projected for each taxpayer is a "piddling" amount and most parents would rather that money went into the education of their children, she suggested.
Board Member Don Carpenter alluded to the added specter of tax initiatives expected to be on the fall ballots. The cuts proposed by these initiatives would make the present reductions appear insignificant. "They'll look like small change if tax rollbacks come about."
Board Member Orr Hill, a longtime district employee, said, "This is the saddest day of my life. During the 35 years I've been with the district I've seen many of these programs develop and they've been lost in one evening. We searched every part of the budget and we could only do what we did."
The district started a painful realignment of its budget by shifting its $200,000 reserve into the unappropriated fund balance, eliminating any possible cushion to meet emergencies.
By law, the district is allowed to have a reserve of 1.5 percent of its budget - up to $1.9 million in the Jordan District - but "we were a long way from meeting the amount available to us," said Clerk/Treasurer George F. Copeland.
The largest gouge came in increased class loads. Each classroom will have .75 additional student, at a total dollar value of $1.05 million. Jordan already has classes that are among the highest in the state, and the state has the largest classes in the nation.
The south-county district is still growing and will absorb approximately 600 new students this fall. One new elementary school will open, "although we have no money to open a new school."
The district still has a 5-mill margin in its voted leeway potential, Whittenburg said, but the current state of the economy and the groundswell for tax relief make any thought of an added district leeway tax moot.
Jackie Christensen, president of the Jordan Education Association, said, "It's tragic that Jordan District must rip $3 million from students' education funds while elected (state) officials are forecasting a large tax surplus. There is no surplus when schools are being devastated by budget cutting this way." The talk of rebates is "blatant political expediency."
She said the district already is underfunded, its classes overpopulated and its employees underpaid. The cuts announced Tuesday will hurt education. "The quality is going down and teachers are frustrated," she said.