MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 21, 2013

Schools to lose funds

Looming budget cuts could make 2015 a tough year

— Local schools stand to lose funding because of Congress’ looming across-the-board budget cuts.

School officials say, however, they’re ready to absorb the hits in the upcoming school year, but if the cuts continue, 2015 looks difficult.

When a congressional “super committee” failed to find a way to cut the federal budget, a $1.2 trillion, 10-year plan took effect —leaving education facing budget shortages.

Muskogee Public Schools expects a $500,000 reduction in federal funding when the new fiscal year begins July 1, said Chief Financial Officer John Little.

About half of that would come from the district’s Title I funding, which largely pays for special education programs and kindergarten teachers, he said.

Little said money the district has saved will help in the short term.

“It will have a very negligible effect this first year, but in 2015 it would take full effect and that may or may not get into losing people,” Little said.

Little said the school will look at other ways of saving money before cutting staff or reducing special services, including reducing supply budgets.

“Most of it we have enough reserve to take care of the first year without having to cut people,” he said. “But in 2015, the cushion we saved would be exhausted, so then we’d have to face the full effect.”

Muskogee County Head Start expects a cut, but hasn’t received any concrete information. Head Start doesn’t expect to see a loss in funding until the new fiscal year begins June 1, said Director Diane Woodard.

They’ll do their best to keep services at the same level they are now and avoid reducing staff, Woodard said.

Muskogee County Head Start shouldn’t have to serve fewer children to save money, she said.

“We haven’t heard anything concrete yet, but we have heard to prepare for a 5 percent cut,” Woodard said. “We won’t decrease the quality of services. That’s not what we’re looking at at this point.”

Woodard said it’s possible Head Start may not be able to fill some planned job positions, but they will try to continue to keep the level of services they provide.

“But we’ll see depending on what the actual numbers look like,” she said.

Little said should Head Start be forced to cut services to 4-year-olds, MPS can easily step in and add them to its 4-year-old programs at the Early Childhood Center and Benjamin Franklin Science Academy.

“That’s the one grade level that state aid fully pays for the class,” Little said.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.

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