COLUMBUS JCT., Iowa — Nearly two dozen positions in the Columbus School District could be eliminated because the district is facing a $450,000 budget shortfall next year.

The school board was warned Thursday during a budget workshop that the red ink could continue into next year, meaning even more staff reductions for the district.

Superintendent Marlene Johnson presented the bleak picture to the board and about 15 staff and district residents, outlining a variety of reduction packages she had developed.

She said under her preferred package, the district would eliminate a middle school counselor position; a high school math, a half-time high school Spanish, a third grade and a preschool teaching positions; two elementary, one library and one general education paraeducators; one elementary school administration manager; one high school secretary; a 5/6 classroom teacher and reduce graduation requirements for PE, allowing the district to reduce one PE position.

She estimated that plan’s total savings would be about $422,546.

The board did not take any action Thursday, but is expected to consider action at its Jan. 21 meeting.

The district’s primary problem has been enrollment losses. Five years ago, the certified student enrollment was 1,022. This year’s count was 826, a decrease of 196 students.

The district lost about 70 students this past year. With about $5,800 per student in state aid at stake, the impact of lost students has been significant.

In other action, Johnson asked the board to consider seeking a 10-year renewal from voters for the school district’s voter-approved Physical Plant and Equipment Levy. The current levy is 67 cents per $1,000 taxable valuation. The levy is scheduled to expire in two years. The board may act on the request next week.

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