2013-05-31 / Front Page

Budget work rolls on

Opinions differ on how much to cut after voters’ rejection
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

After hearing from the voters that the $38.8 million school budget was too high, the Board of Education convened Thursday, May 23 to eliminate $54,000 from the budget. The Town Council, however, will almost certainly reduce the budget more.

The Town Council was scheduled to have a first reading on the new school budget Wednesday, May 29, after the Leader’s deadline.

The group is expected to require the school’s operating expenses is increased by no more than 3 percent over the current school budget. This would mean another $391,400 would have to be removed from the budget.

The decision to reduce the budget even $54,000 was by no means an easy, or unanimous decision for the Board of Education. Board members Donna Beeley and Kelly Murphy voted to keep the budget intact.

Board member Jackie Perry said while she doesn’t agree the budget should be cut, she could support reducing it by $54,000 more to help appease the 60 percent of voters who said the budget was too high at the school budget validation vote Tuesday, May 14.

“The reason I will support it is because the voters who did vote said it was too high. I don’t happen to agree with them, but they did make that statement and sent us the message the budget was too high,” Perry said.

Beeley said while she respects the decision that was made by voters, she argues the budget has already been drastically reduced. The figure that went before the voters, she noted, was close to $3 million less than what Superintendent George Entwistle first proposed to the Board of Education March 10.

“If we need to further reduce the school budget by $391,400, there will be a major impact on our students, staff, teachers and even parents as they find out the program they thought their child was going to have this fall will no longer be there,” Beeley said.

Entwistle spent the beginning part of the meeting going over a list of potential cuts, grouped in $50,000 tiers.

To reduce the budget by $54,000, Entwistle said future implementation of cirriculum improvement efforts ($10,000) would be delayed, the failing library software system that checks books in and out of the district’s six schools would not be replaced ($20,000) and certain stipends and supplies would be eliminated for after-school activities and clubs at the Scarborough Middle School and Scarborough High School ($24,000) would also be eliminated.

Reducing the budget by the $391,000 would include: eliminating student transportation to practices;eliminating one or two education technicians in the special education department; eliminating middle school athletic teams and replacing them with intramural teams and eliminating primary school guidance counselor. It would also include reorganizing the roles of central office administrators; eliminate a foreign language teacher at Wentworth Intermediate School and a technology integrator at the middle school and across-the-board reduction or elimination of co-curricular and athletic programs at the high school.

Further reductions would be needed because the aforementioned reductions would only reduce the budget by $375,000.

A full list of the impact of proposed reductions can be found at www.scarborough.k12.me.us.

Jodi Shea, one of two parents who spoke at the meeting, said she would hate to see the foreign language deconstructed at the intermediate school level so soon after it was reinstated.

“It seemed like Scarborough was heading in the right direction,” Shea, who has a daughter in third grade and a son about to enter primary school, said of foreign language at the intermediate school “To have it again on the chopping block is infuriating. I get it, but I don’t like it.”

“I am conflicted on how to vote,” Shea continued. “I want to vote yes and get what we can for the schools. But the fighter in me and the parent in me says we can’t keep cutting the school budget. It’s affecting our kids.”

Murphy said she was disappointed by not only the vote on the school budget, but the fact that less than 10 percent of the registered voters in town actually voted at the polls.

“The lack of parental participation is devastating. The cuts that are going to happen are huge and no one is paying attention,” she said. “It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Many board members agreed with Murphy and voiced their frustration that the public, especially parents, did not bother to vote. Many of the ones that did said they voted against the budget because of the impact it would have on their property taxes.

Board of Education member John Cole said he understands that concern.

“I don’t want my taxes to go up, but I don’t want to compromise the integrity of our school system and with every $54,000 cut we make, that is exactly what we are doing,” he said.

Cole said further reducing the school budget could set Scarborough schools on a path toward failure.

“It is pretty scary the direction we are going…if we don’t pay attention and invest smartly,” Cole said.

Chris Caiazzo, chairman of the board’s finance committee, said the only way the cuts could be avoided is if parents vocalize their support of the school spending plan.

“The only way we can avoid what Dr. Entwistle has presented is to get parents involved,” he said.

“Make being involved. You have to. If you don’t get involved, the impact on your child could last the rest of their lives,” he told parents watching the video broadcast of the meeting. “

Katie Elliott, the senior student representative on the Board of Education, said she feels the impact funding, or lack of funding has on the student body everyday.

“We have so much potential, but the problem is we don’t have anybody investing in it,” Elliott said.

Want to comment on this story? Login to our website at leader.mainelymediallc.com and let us know your thoughts.

Return to top