Bermudian Springs superintendent announces retirement, board approves preliminary budget

The Bermudian Springs school board approved its preliminary 2024-25 budget and accepted the resignation of the district’s superintendent on Tuesday evening.

Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss will retire on Oct. 28, according to the meeting agenda.

The board also approved a long list of other personnel decisions, accepting multiple resignations and transfers as well as approving extracurricular contracts for a summer Cursive Camp director, varsity head boys’ basketball coach, head girls’ wrestling coach, and a varsity head field hockey coach.

Preliminary budget

The preliminary budget was set with a tentative 5.4% tax increase, equivalent to 13.5323 mills.

In June, the board will finalize its budget. By approving the preliminary budget, the board agreed to a limit of a 5.4% increase, but did not make a final decision regarding real estate taxes.

For the past several months, business manager Justin Peart has presented the board with a variety of scenarios ranging from no tax increase to the Act One Index of 7.2%.

Tuesday’s vote set a cap of a 5.4% increase, removing the Act One Index as an option, but did not commit to any rate.

The board will vote on its final budget in June, including whether to agree on a 5.4% increase or to set a lower rate.

During the caucus meeting on Monday the day before the vote was held, Peart told the board that even a 5.4% increase would leave a budget shortfall and may reduce the fund balance to $5,026,606 by the end of June 2025.

Should the budget continue on its projected path for the next three years, the fund balance would be left with negative $3.75 million by the end of 2027-28.

Peart said that the state may still come through with increased funding for 2024-25 and future years, but without knowing how the final state budget – and other unforeseeable factors – will look, it is impossible to fully predict.

Peart also apprised the board of financial changes on Monday.

While Peart said a “detailed review” to solidify numbers since April yielded a positive change of $33,517, other factors related to the creation of an emotional support classroom and an increase in special education places led to an increase.

Even with other reductions from attrition, a decrease in the high school budget and lower T-Mobile expenses, the 2024-25 budget increased $252,493.

Peart said special education placements are “very difficult moving targets” as the amount and locations of placements can quickly change.

Well over half of the budget (65%) is earmarked for employee salaries and benefits, and much of the rest is allocated to student placements, cyber-charter and similar commitments, according to Peart.

This leaves limited wiggle room in the budget at the local level for other needs.

“So you’re looking at just over 10% of our budget is something that you actually have discretionary change, if you want,” Peart said.

Union criticizes book ban

A representative with the Bermudian Springs Education Association (BSEA) read a resolution the union approved to the school board.

The resolution criticized the changes made to Policy 109 – Resource Materials last month.

Supporters of the revisions say the changes were made to ensure students are protected from age-inappropriate materials, including sexual references.

The BSEA resolution brought up several critiques about the changes. The district has a duty “to serve the students by providing a supportive and differentiated learning environment that prioritizes student voice and choice,” according to the resolution.

The document also stated that “students are stakeholders in their education and should be afforded the opportunity to voice their opinions on policies that directly impact their learning experience.”

The resolution included other points, saying that parents have the chance to ask that their children be given alternative materials if the parents disapprove of ones provided to them.

Jennifer Goldhahn provided an update on the Curriculum, Instruction, Resource and Assessment (CIRA) committee, which now helps review and approve materials, for the board.

During its meeting on April 18, the CIRA committee “approved committee bylaws, reviewed math curriculum framework, approved the community advisor application, and approved a resource review request form,” according to Goldhahn.

Applications for the community advisor position are available on the district website and will be accepted until Friday, May 24.

Goldhahn said the CIRA committee also discussed “how to add cursive back into the curriculum” and how to honor fallen veterans for Memorial Day.

Other business

The board re-elected Ruth Griffie as its treasurer for a one-year term.

After adjourning, the board held an executive session to discuss personnel matters.

Graduation is scheduled for May 29, with a rain makeup day of May 30. If both dates are rained out, the ceremony will be moved to May 31.

The board will hold a caucus meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, June 17.

A regular meeting will follow at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 18.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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Linda Bahn
Linda Bahn
18 days ago

What actions have been taken to reduce the budget for the Berdudian Springs school district?

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