The Schools' Fiscal Cliff
The board hasn't spent blindly. "We cut $60 million out of the last three years' budgets," says Mexicotte. "If we hadn't used the fund balance, we would've had to cut music, languages, theater, and athletics. As it was, we still had to cut 350 full-time positions."
Nelson ticks off some of the changes. The district has raised fees and increased class sizes, and it no longer has its own school buses: "We have a transportation consortium run by the intermediate school district now," he says. "We use new software that's cut down on central office staff. We passed a new special education millage and gotten it renewed twice. We have a technology bond rather than using the general fund."
But with continuing deficits and a depleted fund balance, the district now must face even tougher choices: asking voters to reconsider a previously rejected countywide "enhancement" millage; redrawing attendance boundaries; and closing schools.