RCS announces mid-year budget update

Jessica Leininger

An email was sent out to staff in regards to the mid-year budget update in early December to prepare for cuts and adjustments that would take place during the school year. Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaner wanted to reassure everyone that he was doing his best under the circumstances.

 “We cannot direct the wind,” the email said, “but we can adjust our sails.”

 This sentiment set the tone for what followed, for because enrollment is down in RCS, the budget allotted by the state also is. A loss of total enrollment combined with new state legislation has resulted in a loss of 1.2 million dollars to the budget. Because of this, adjustments are being made to aspects of elementary, secondary and special education. The human resources, technology, facilities and operations of RCS are also going to be affected by the cuts in the budget. Collective planned cuts are predicted to add up to $1,212,500 dollars.

Dr. Shaner understands that the cuts will affect people’s lives, but hopes people understand why these adjustments must be made.

“We’re a 160 million dollar municipal corporation,” Dr. Shaner said. “It’s a complex organization and, just like any other organization, when your revenue and capacity changes, you have to change the structure of your business. If we have fewer kids, we need fewer people to service kids, and if we don’t (make these changes) it will be a compounding problem.”

The plans were developed by a team comprised of the 23 RCS principals, Dr. Shaner’s cabinet and a myriad of other consultants as soon as it came to light that enrollment was down. Despite the cuts being fiscally responsible, the layoffs are still painful for Dr. Shaner.

“I lose a lot of sleep over it,” Dr. Shaner said. “Like any other human, I wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat sometimes, worrying about people’s livelihoods. But the board of education hired me to be focused on the mission of this organization and if I do that I think I do right by everybody, including the kids, which is why we’re here. We’re here to service children. It’s difficult, it’s emotional, it’s draining. I care about the people I work with and I know our teachers do great work, and our para pros do great work, and our maintenance does great work and it’s a gut wrenching decision.”

Dr. Shaner also believes that implementing these changes will keep RCS in better shape down the road. The structure of the district must be changed now, but RCS is trying to prepare for the next decade, which is why they are keeping consulting firms. Dr. Shaner says he wants what is best for students, and can see the importance in doing this now as opposed to putting it off.

“We could kick the can down the road,” Dr. Shaner said. “And during the next budget cycle we wouldn’t be adjusting for 154 kids down, we’d be adjusting for 205 kids and so on and so forth, which is a compounding problem. This is really a courageous thing to do right now, and it really is focused on having as little impact on kids as we can possibly manage.”

The mid-year budget update will affect some negatively, but administration is doing what they feel they need to do in a way that is best for the collective district, and most importantly, the students that the district serves.

“We’ve worked really hard to respect people’s dignity,” Dr. Shaner said. “But I think we have to be responsive stewards. If we’re not responsive there are dire consequences, and there will be dire consequences for kids, and I just can’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen. We’re a great school district with great teachers doing great things for kids and we’re going to continue doing that.”