Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Uncertainty surrounds district budget cutbacks

February 20, 2002

Rosemary Murphy is concerned about the future of the elementary art program.

Her concern comes after the Baldwin Board of Education reviewed a potential cost saving list at last week's board meeting. Included on the 27-item list of the possible program, activity and position cuts for the school district is the elimination of elementary art.

"I was dismayed," Murphy, a Baldwin resident and artist, said. "I am opposed to any cut in the art program.

"This community has a lot of artists in it," she said. "I really think what's going on in the schools should reflect the community."

Murphy isn't the only person that has concerns about the possibility of budget cuts in the district, Supt. James White said.

"I have heard from several people," he said. "There are some of these programs that are very precious and important to different segments of the population."

The Baldwin School District could have to cut its budget if the state legislature decides to cut its funding to schools. Currently, the legislature is discussing a $158 per pupil cut, which would mean the district would receive about $270,000 less for the 2002-2003 school year than it did this year.

The list the school board received last week included cuts in staffing, the elimination of fifth-grade band, the delay in new textbook adoptions, the delay in ordering additional classroom computers, restructuring the school nurse positions, the elimination of the charter school, the reduction of assistant coaches and the delay in the purchase of new athletic uniforms.

But the list is not set in stone, White said.

"This is just a brainstorming list of possibilities," he said.

The ideas that make up the list, he said, came from district administrators, district faculty and administrators from other districts.

"At this point, we don't know if any of the cuts will be implemented or if all would," he said. "They were ideas that someone somewhere along the line mentioned. Some of them, in my opinion, are not good ideas."

Even though the list has been presented to the board, White said everything is still undecided.

"Nothing's been discussed at this point," he said. "We don't really want to talk about any of these until we really know what we have to do."

White said he doesn't expect the legislature to make a final decision on school funding until late April.

Until then, he said, the district is just putting ideas together.

"There's nothing magical about this list," he said of the possible cuts already mentioned. "It's our first start. I'm sure there are other areas out there we would also need to consider."

He said district patrons need to be aware of the current situation.

"I think people need to know we are talking about cuts," he said. "Certain lawmakers feel that we don't need additional funding for public schools. But if we don't have the additional funding, they need to know these programs people think are important will be considered for elimination.

"All people in the community need to know that if the cuts become a reality," White said, "it will be terribly difficult to continue the programs that are good for the kids."

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