School board increases budget, prevents teacher layoff

Strong public support for high school social studies teacher saves job

— The board voted 4-2 to add to the budget an amendment to fund the social studies position. They then voted, again 4-2, to pay for the budget increase by using district reserve funds, or fund balance, rather than by increasing the tax levy above the planned 4.93 percent. If the board had approved an increased tax levy the budget would have had to be approved by at least 60 percent of the voters in order to pass. If it failed, the budget would have had to put up for a second public vote.

The budget already had $1.3 million in school reserve funds included, but with a plan to reduce the amount of those funds used every year by $275,000. This year, instead, it will be reduced by $207,000.

“This is a real issue. If we don’t stop using the fund balance we’ll run out of money,” said William Furlong, assistant superintendent for business and finance. When that account runs dry then the money it was being used for will have to come out of the budget itself, he said.

Before the amendment was approved to increase the budget to include funding of the social studies position, the proposed budget was basically the same as was presented at the board’s budget work session on April 15. The only change was a savings of $11,000 by cutting funding for two boys lacrosse assistant coaching positions, one for varsity and one for junior varsity. The other four district positions that will be eliminated next year will still be cut — one fifth grade teacher, one sixth grade teacher, one cleaner and one high school guidance counselor — but these were through attrition and not through layoff.

Multiple supporters of the softball team in particular — players, parents of players and team coaches — pleaded with the board to find the money to field a team and not force players to skip from modified straight to varsity. While no one said it outright, more than one suggested that since the board was willing to manipulate the budget to save a teacher’s job, why could it not work the numbers to save a team that so many athletes both want and need.

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