Sunday, December 8, 2013
Kennebec Journal Staff
WINTHROP -- Residents peppered school board members with questions about the school budget Wednesday as the board discussed additional cuts in hopes of winning voter approval.
The Winthrop school system may be forced to resort to cutting from its athletic budget to make ends meet.
Staff file photo by Andy Molloy
Twice this year, voters have rejected proposed school budgets.
Now the board is trying to discern whether that rejection means they should propose cuts to administration, teachers, athletics or in all areas as they look to trim the approximately $10 million budget.
Board member Virginia Geyer said she would like to see the budget cut by $120,000.
"I will state that I personally am not in favor of one more dime in cuts to academics without taking a serious look at athletic programs," she said.
Some of the proposed cuts include ending middle school sports and replacing them with an intramural program, and reducing funding for middle school books. The board did agree to a $9,600 cut in technology funds that would have gone to new overhead projectors and minor maintenance.
Also, it approved a $1,500 cut to the special-education staff travel budget.
Board Chairman Ike Dyer said the system could save $24,000 by changing the way payroll is allocated over the summer. Traditionally, that money represented a cushion, he said. Board members said they need more information on that proposal before they can support it.
Superintendent Gary Rosenthal said he already has implemented a hiring freeze and has restricted spending to only critical needs.
The board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday to vote on a new budget that will go out to voters sometime in early September, Rosenthal said.
More than 30 people came to the board meeting, many with questions about the process.
Nate Rudy, a resident who attended a public hearing last week, said he's concerned the board is rushing to come to a decision.
"I think it was clear no one is happy with the way this is going," he said. "We all feel trapped."
Some in the audience questioned why the board has scheduled for next week a daylong retreat at which some budget discussions are expected to take place. They asked the board to hold its discussions at night at a meeting where residents could participate.
Last week, nearly 100 people spent two hours telling the board what they thought of the budget. Some urged cuts in administration, while others said they want the board to leave the budget as it is and send it back out to voters a third time.
In June, the budget failed by 32 votes; and in July, voters rejected it by 129 votes. Following the June vote, the school board cut the budget by $116,000.
School board member Kristin Shumway said she has a list of cuts that total $150,000 and that she believes it would be a good idea to move to an intramural sports program at the middle school. She said a well-run program could fit with the "adolescent mind-set."
"A sixth-grader cut from a team might not try out again," she said.