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SJSD Board Approves Deficit Spending for 2014-15

The approved budget of nearly $125 million includes money for more ESOL teachers, Special Ed teachers and full funding for Parents as Teachers.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  On a 6-1 vote, the St. Joseph School District Board of Education approved the district's budget for the 2014-15 school year.

The nearly $125 million budget includes several new items the board had wanted to include including new ESOL teachers, more special education teachers and the Parents-as-Teachers program fully funded.

"We strive to get to the kids as quickly as possible," said district superintendent Dr. Fred Czerwonka. "Research has proven that the earlier you reach a child, the more opportunity you have for their success."

The new staffing positions come at a cost as nearly $3 million more will be spent on salaries next year. Without the revenue increase to pay for it, the board agreed to the deficit spending and will take the money out of its reserves.

There was concern about the price, especially with next year's levy up for renewal with voters.

"Let's solve this problem now," said Todd Brockett, the St. Joseph president of the National Teachers Association, who addressed the board before the vote. "Let's not spend the money now that we don't have. Can't we wait a year to see where we're at a year from now. Let's wait to see if that levy passes before we pass all these large increases. Personnel is our number one cost."

The lone vote against the budget came from board member Chris Danford, who has often criticized school administrators for their handling of spending in recent months.

"I have questioned the integrity of this administration," Danford said. "I certainly have doubts about the integrity of some portions of the budget. I don't even know the whole budget."

The final measure of the budget will be in the success of the programs and the education of the kids.

"You have to look at the efficiency and the adequacy and that we're getting a good value for the dollar that we invest in that," Czerwonka said. "If it's not, then those measuring sticks will show and we'll have to look at reshaping that or eliminating that."
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