The New Albany-Plain Local School District will not lose as much money in 2011 as previously estimated, according to district officials at the Sept. 23 financial review and reporting committee (FRRC).

The New Albany-Plain Local School District will not lose as much money in 2011 as previously estimated, according to district officials at the Sept. 23 financial review and reporting committee (FRRC).

“We expected a $4.9-million reduction,” said Superintendent April Domine.

However, the figures presented during the meeting showed the district would lose $3,165,222.38 from its budget.

District officials estimated in October 2010 that cuts in federal stimulus funds and state aid, lowered property-tax values and the elimination of personal property-tax reimbursements from the state.

According to figures presented to the FRRC on Sept. 23, the district lost $486,365 in federal stimulus funds and $609,684 from personal property-tax reimbursements.

However, state aid was not cut as much as anticipated and property-tax reappraisal values, while down an average 9.42 percent in value in the city, were not as low as anticipated. According to treasurer Brian Ramsay’s calculations, the district lost $945,715.59 less than anticipated in state aid and $845,048 less from property-tax reappraisal valuations.

The district had also expected to save $608,030 in fiscal year 2011 from budget reductions requested by the FRRC.

Domine said the district saved $615,302 from those cuts. Those savings resulted from a new approach to budgeting, in which building principals were asked to reduce costs and save money rather than spending what was saved on new programming or equipment.

Committee member David Demers expressed concern about the cuts made by New Albany Middle School because school administrators decided not to purchase computers and SMART Boards. Demers asked if all students and teachers were using the same tools or if some were doing without.

Domine said the district still intends to replace aging equipment and officials are trying to balance the budget without affecting students’ education.

Committee member Parag Patel suggested the district determine how certain tools save teachers time.

“We need a plan that tells us how we are using technology to make teaching more effective,” said committee member Phil Derrow.

School board vice president Laura Kohler said the district — as part of its mission to “reinvent education” — must examine how students are being taught and “challenge all assumptions” before determining that one piece of equipment, such as SMART Boards, should be used in all classrooms.

Domine said measuring the impact of a single aspect of education is difficult. She said the district probably could not determine conclusively if using SMART Boards improves education because many factors affect a child’s daily education.

The FRRC also discussed the district’s decision not to hire new teachers and to eliminate permanent substitute teachers. Domine said the district added one school psychologist and had to hire a third-grade teacher because of class numbers. She said the district also hired a teacher, Sheri Gibson, to implement the pilot all-day kindergarten program for at-risk students, but that position is funded by grant money. The only other employees hired were a bus driver and a cafeteria aide.

In another effort to save money and re-evaluate the district’s current staffing levels, Domine said, the district declined to replace an educational technology support person who resigned. Instead, the district is looking to use interns to do lower-level technical support work.

The administration also is re-evaluating the communications department since communications director Jeff Warner left in August. Domine said she currently is using three part-time employees to help with communications and she has convened a communications advisory group to determine how the district should handle communications in the future.

Demers noted that the district’s enrollment had increased by 104 and he asked if they were evenly dispersed throughout all grade levels.

Domine said a few teachers had to move from fourth to fifth grade because of class sizes.

Joe Armpriester, the Plain Local Education Association teachers union representative, said teacher certifications have narrowed in recent years, which means most teachers are certified to teach kindergarten to second grade or third through fifth grade at the elementary level. In middle and high schools, the focus can narrow even more, with teachers being certified in specific subjects.

The FRRC also wanted further explanation of permanent substitutes as opposed to substitute teachers who are hired as needed. Domine said permanent substitutes already work in the buildings and know the teachers and children. She said when they are not standing in for a full-time teacher, they often complete student assessments and participate in team teaching.

Derrow and Demers said substitutes seem to be a distraction whether they are permanent or not.

“Building (permanent) subs know the teachers and the students and cause the least amount of disturbance,” Armpriester said.

Committee members questioned how to determine which type of substitute is better for the students’ education. Domine said it is difficult to determine. The district could only get objective feedback from teachers and principals on the substitutes’ effectiveness, she said.

Derrow said providing feedback on cost-cutting measures is difficult if the district does not provide standards by which the elimination of a program or position can be measured.

The FRRC is expected to make recommendations to the school board next month on the five-year forecast, which is due by the end of October. The FRRC was not able to cover everything on its agenda Sept. 23, so it scheduled another meeting for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4, and committee members plan to discuss financial projections at that meeting.

At the end of the meeting, Derrow asked Kohler and school board member Cheri Lehmann for further clarification about the committee’s duties. He said some of the goals were expressed in previous meetings but said there still seems to be confusion on in-depth conversations about specific educational pieces. Kohler had requested several times during the meeting that the group move on with discussions in an attempt to get through a long agenda.

The FFRC met for the first time since June, when the committee split into smaller groups to allow individual members to use their expertise to help the district examine different elements of its financial situation. Domine previously said the FRRC canceled the July meeting because of vacations and no meeting was scheduled in August.