05 Apr Painful Cuts In Order In Daniel Boone School District

April 5, 2010

By: Laura Catalano
Source: The Mercury

At a Daniel Boone Area School board budget workshop, the board looked at making some painful cuts to close a $1.56 million budget shortfall in the preliminary 2010-11 budget.

Among those items considered for the chopping block at last Wednesday’s meeting were the elimination of the entire elementary band program and three middle school teachers — one full-time librarian, one full-time German teacher, and a half-time music teaching position.

Administrators also suggested possibly cutting as many as 17 regular classroom teachers’ aides and up to five special education aides, and even reducing full-day kindergarten back to half-day; although, Superintendent Gary Otto stressed that all the items on the list were proposals only, and many would not likely be approved.

"This is not a done deal. There will come a time when (the budget’s) a done deal. I can assure you, it’s not tonight," Otto said. "Nothing is cut out of the budget until the budget is finalized in June."

The board agreed to apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education to see if any of the suggested program cuts would even be accepted before delving more deeply in eliminating any teachers or slashing programs. The board will vote on April 12 on which programs to include in that application, but even those that might be accepted by the state Department of Education won’t necessarily be carried out by the board.

Otto expressed doubts that the state Department of Education would approve any program cuts for budgetary reasons.

"PDE says you can’t lay off for economic reasons," he said. "So you can see the vice grip that we’re in."

Over the past several months, the district has whittled down a $6 million budget shortfall to about $1.56 million in the preliminary 2010-11 budget. A portion of that deficit was made up by a decision to use $1.5 million from the district’s fund balance, and cuts have been made in a number of areas, including technology and supplies, Business Manager Danielle Penza said at the meeting.

Penza noted that additional education funding and a lower than anticipated medical benefit increase also helped close that gap.

Last week, another $622,000 in cuts was proposed to such items as new sports uniforms, varsity jackets and meal money, and not filling teaching jobs lost through attrition.

To help further reduce the $1.56 million budget shortfall, Otto presented the board with a list of 20 possible cuts. The first 11 totaled $446,000, while the remaining nine came to $919,000 for a total of $1.46 million that could possibly be trimmed.

& amp;quot;We kind of hold our breath when we look at these," Otto said, referring to the final nine items listed.

Those included eliminating 17 elementary classroom aides, up to five special education aides, all extracurricular club advisers, middle school team leaders, high school department chairs and the elementary band program. Also on that list was the reduction of kindergarten from a full-day to a half-day program. That option was not discussed at all by the board, which adjourned into executive session at 10:30 p.m.

The board did agree to cut about $30,000 by postponing the purchase of new science textbooks. They objected, though, to excising a $12,000 expenditure to help fund student competitions such as Odyssey of the Mind and Math Olympiad.

They agreed to cut three part-time mowers and nine preferred substitute teachers out of the budget, but wanted more information on the cost savings associated with the latter. Preferred substitutes are sent to district schools every day rather than waiting to be called from a list.

The board appeared to support a proposal to reduce the coaching staff by taking out assistant "floater" coaches, saving about $16,000. They were unwilling, though, to chop $75,000 from the custodial maintenance overtime budget, since much of that is related to afterschool activities.

They also objected to a suggestion to remove the athletic department secretary, but did not remove it from the list.

In looking at cutting a middle school librarian, German teacher and part-time music teacher, the board agreed only to apply to PDE to determine if those cuts would even be accepted.

"PDE might decide these all for us,&q uot; said board member Andrew Basile.

The board agreed to take middle school team leaders and high school department chairs out of the budget, saving about $40,000, but wanted to keep all club advisers and an athletic game manager.

Several board members objected to cutting a new high school remedial math position, but it was not taken off the list of possible cuts.

"I think this would have to be a last resort," said board member Michael D. Sheerer.

Board member Alan D. Ross strongly opposed elimination of the elementary school band program. That, too, would require PDE approval.

"Forty percent of students go through this program," he said. "To take this away I think would be a very bad decision."

The board will vote on April 12 on which program cuts to apply for from the state Department of Education.

They won’t need PDE permission to cut 17 teachers’ aides from regular education classes. Nevertheless, most board members seemed unwilling to do away with that many.

Assistant to the Superintendent Ann Marie Traynor said there are about 32 full-time, regular education aides. She noted that since some classes will have larger class sizes next year as a result of teaching positions lost through attrition, the aides could be even more important.

"The aides would be able to assist students that need support academically," she said. "Without them it will be difficult to reach a lot of those students."

Ross asked that the administration suggest a lower numbe r of aides to cut.

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