Nothing is perfect, especially in the world of education today. But these are just a few of the things the Ladue School District is currently up against.
For instance, Reed School serves lunch to its students as early as 10:30 in the morning and as late as 2 p.m. Ladue High has classes with excess of 30 students in a room and the whole district had to forgo its summer camping program.
None of this is either tolerable, or tied to the rich tradition of a district that dates back to the 1950s when the high school opened its doors to offer secondary public education starting in 1954.
With an enrollment that has increased 23 percent over 10 years and a nine percent drop in revenues, due to a slow paced economy and falling home values, the district has been put on a financial collision course. Draconian cuts will have to be made should the .49 cent tax levy put before the votes April 3 fail.
“It’s sort of like we’re on a sinking ship and the bucket we are using to bail water has a hole in it,” said Dr. Jason Buckner, chief financial officer addressing a room full of concerned residents, parents, administrators and teachers at Ladue High School Monday night. This is part of a series of presentations and round table discussions to present all sides of the issues to the voters prior to election day.
Bucker said maintaining the district finances is no different than running a home budget. “There are simply things that are out of our control. We have no say over utility rates. If we have severe winter weather (the district incurred several recent years), costs go up.” Besides, “Our money is tied up in a state mandated pension fund for our employees and we have to continue to purchase services for our schools,” he said.
Like it or not, all school districts are labor intensive. More than 80 percent of Ladue’s money is spent on salaries and benefits for its teachers and administers.
On the flip side, if the tax levy passes, then a number of things will kick into place
- Class room sizes, grades 3-12 will remain the same. Plans are in place to keep class room sizes smaller in grades K-3.
- The fifth grade center at the West Campus will open for school year 2013-14.
- The district will be able to avoid expenditure reductions
- Teachers would receive modest increases
Should the bond issue not pass:
- $1-2 million would be cut from the budget every year going forward. The district has already cut $7 million from the budget the past four years.
- Size of class rooms would be mandated by the number of teachers available in each district building
- In time, The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would name Ladue as a financially stressed district.
This report includes extensive interviews with the district’s superintendent, chief financial office, the high school principal, a retired veteran teacher and present day school member and active district parent.