BUDGET CUTS: $3.6m WDM Schools Shortfall Debated

The West Des Moines School District board had the unenviable task of cutting several million dollars from its budget for the next year.

The district needs to cut $3.6 million from its 2014-15 budget.  It’s the ninth-largest school district in the state and certainly one of the wealthiest, but it also has some unique problems that make this budget deficit very difficult to deal with.

“We’re not the same West Des Moines I grew up with,” West Des Moines School Board President Elizabeth Brennan said.

“Our demographics are significantly changing. We’re a landlocked district so we’re not getting any new students, in fact, we’re losing students. In public education that’s the whole ball game. If you’re losing students, you’re losing funding.”

Raising taxes is not an option.  Now, the school board has a plan to trim its budget.  It begins with closing Phenix Elementary, the oldest school in the district. It would cut 21 assistant positions in the district’s special education department.  In all about 60 positions would be eliminated.

One look at the attendance at Monday night’s school board meeting and it was clear that these cuts are very unpopular.  The board knew this going in, but they got an earful, tonight.

There were passionate speeches that argued against every single cut that the school board had proposed and the meeting went on into the late hours. The meeting began at 5 p.m. and a vote had yet to take place as of 10 p.m.