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Norman Public School District outlines budget reductions

Oklahoma has experienced a significant revenue failure this fiscal year, which has resulted in state education funding reductions of nearly $110 million in the past three months alone. This equates to a $2 million loss for the Norman Public School District and additional cuts are expected in the next few months. 

Although Gov. Fallin has approved a measure to tap a portion of the state’s Rainy Day fund, funding continues to fall short. The revenue failure has forced the district to begin depleting reserve funds to maintain services to students and fulfill current obligations to employees.

For the next fiscal year, Oklahoma’s $1.3 billion shortfall is expected to result in an additional $3.8 million reduction for Norman Public Schools. Combined, the district faces a loss of about $6 million going into the next school year.

“Like many other districts across the state, we are not immune to these significant budget cuts and unfortunately, our district is forced to reduce next year’s budget by nearly $6 million,” said Dr. Joe Siano, Norman Public Schools superintendent. “We are taking a strategic, thoughtful and incremental approach to reductions and are focused on making reductions that minimize the impact on students, to the extent possible. These are difficult decisions that we do not take lightly.”

District officials say most reductions will come in the form of attrition or retirements, resignations and reassignments. The deepest percentage of reductions will be realized in administrative functions and pay for administrators has been frozen. Operational funds and support services, such as custodial contracts, are also being reduced.

“Our priority remains to protect the classroom,” Siano said. “We continue to hire classroom teachers and are working hard to ensure our students continue to receive the quality education they deserve and expect from our schools.”

District leadership also has worked diligently to find flexibility in other funding sources. For example, Norman residents have shown their support for the district by passing bond elections, which provides some flexibility. Specific laws associated with how bond funds can be spent require that construction projects at schools to continue. However, bond funds also help offset costs for other items, such as textbooks and instructional software. When bond funds can be used to pay for items like these, general funds can be made available to cover other costs.

Aside from cuts to the operational budget, the majority of reductions will be realized in the form of attrition - retirements, resignations and reassignments. Budget reductions include:

Administration

  • The deepest percentage of reductions will be realized in administrative functions as administration costs will be reduced by more than 11 percent (about $900,000).
  • This will occur through attrition and some personnel reassignments. For example, our instructional coaches, who have been doing an amazing job in their roles, have been reassigned to the classroom because that is where they are needed most in the current economic environment.
  • Administrative vacancies will be evaluated and we will determine if positions can be filled or if responsibilities can be reassigned or consolidated through administrative transfers.
  • Administrative pay has been frozen.

Certified staff

  • We are reducing certified staffing costs by about 3 percent (about $2.1 million).
  • While we did not want to eliminate the French Immersion program, we could not justify the cost in the current economic climate. To continue the program, it would have cost about $400,000 in next year’s budget.
  • We expect to reduce certified staff positions, however, we do not plan a reduction in force. Rather, those positions will also be reduced through attrition or reassignments.

Operational

  • We are reducing operational costs by more than 10 percent (nearly $1 million).
  • We are eliminating travel expenses, reducing mileage reimbursements and significantly reducing department budgets.


Support services

  •  We are reducing support costs by nearly 10 percent (about $2 million).
  • While we will retain all certified librarian positions, we are eliminating our library assistants, who have also done a tremendous job in supporting library initiatives.
  • Aside from those required by state and federal laws, teacher assistant positions will likely be significantly reduced in regular classrooms next year. As is the process every year, these positions will be evaluated based on student enrollments.
  • We are also evaluating contracted services, including those for custodial services and software products. We will eliminate or reduce contracts that will not negatively affect instruction or district operations.

“Reductions that impact our district are a direct result of current revenue shortfalls as well as additional lost revenues at the state level that are projected for next year,” Siano said. “It’s incumbent upon parents, teachers and community stakeholders to discuss the importance of public education with their legislators and advocate for an adequate funding plan that places priority on the public services our state is obligated to provide.”