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Seven staff cuts put budget in the black, but renewal of school charter still iffy

Eliminating seven staff positions will bring the budget for the current year into the black, chief financial officer Tom Slager advised the Intercultural Charter School board at its monthly meeting on Monday night. Intercultural’s projected budget was based on an enrollment 34 students higher than turned up. Decreasing payroll by about $400,000 will more than cover the reduction in per-pupil state allocations, Slager said.

Intercultural’s charter is up for review this year, but a low school performance score means renewal is not certain. The Lens recently reported that the board for Einstein Charter School has completed a grant application premised on taking over management of Intercultural.

Intercultural is fighting for renewal nonetheless. The school has  steadily improved, but its performance score of 71.4 is below the state minimum of 75.

Board president Cam Thanh Tran presented a report on the school prepared by the Recovery School District as part of the charter review. Several board members noted that the report used the previous year’s financial figures, ignoring this year’s improvements. Changes in leadership also were not reflected.

The Recovery School District made a site visit to Intercultural in September, but did not include details in the report. The school has received positive site reports in previous years and urged the RSD to make some mention of this one because it, too, had seemed encouraging. The RSD agreed to do a small report on the site visit, a disappointment to board members who wanted a more compete report.

In legal and contractual areas, RSD found Intercultural to be in compliance.

To prepare for the RSD meeting, the board arranged for some members to meet in a closed session an hour earlier. When a reporter asked which exception to the state’s open-meetings law would allow for such a closed meeting, the board replied that since a quorum would not be present, it wasn’t actually a board meeting.

In his financial report, Slager noted that anticipated receipts from accounts payable remained low, making for what is expected to be a lean year ahead. However, net income remains positive for several reasons, he said. The school is currently undergoing a compliance audit, and the auditor found an extra $25,000 net operating income; Slager conceded his projection was overly conservative. Monthly  invoicing of grants—in the past the invoicing was annual or semi-annual—has brought in an additional $44,000 above expectations, Slager said.

Most significantly, the school year began with a surplus of $225,000, a major accomplishment, Slager said, given that the school began the previous year $577,000 in the red. That’s a “positive swing” of $802,000, Slager said, one that he assumes will assure the RSD that finances are under control.

Cutting seven staff positions reduces payroll for the year by $377,000, Slager said. Initially, it had seemed possible that eight or nine positions would have to be cut to make up for the enrollment shortfall.

With health insurance rates set to rise in two weeks by around 30, the faculty has chosen to shift its business to Humana. The insurer has yet to provide a firm rate quote, but Slager said he expected a savings compared with the former plan.

The 6:10 meeting adjourned at 7:47 p.m. Next month’s meeting will be on Dec.  17.

Additional board members present were Al Alcazar, vice-chair; Kathleen Carlin, secretary; and members Tap Bui; Vong Nguyen. Those absent were Larry Baudouin; Francis J. Cascio, treasurer; and members Ed Blouin, Donovan DiLorenzo, and Jerome Jordan. A reporter for The Lens was the only member of the general public in attendance.

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