If you weren't at last night's meeting, you should read Rachel Canelli's recap in today's Courier Times.
In some ways the news of the budget proposal wasn't quite as bad as we expected - no gutting of educational programs, no drastic changes to the classes offered to our students, no elimination of extracurricular activities. But in other ways, last night's meeting was very painful. If the budget recommendation holds, there will be upwards of 65 positions eliminated throughout all levels of staff. No matter how fiscally responsible such a budget may be, there is nothing you can say that will give comfort to the staff involved or their families.
The bulk of the teaching positions being eliminated are a result of consolidating four 9th grades into the high school. Other teaching positions are being reduced through more effective use of scheduling and assignments. There are also support staff, middle management and cabinet positions which are being reduced.
I met with Dr. Muenker and Mr. Paradise today to ask a few questions and address some concerns I had regarding class sizes and program cuts. I had heard rumors and fears of class sizes jumping upwards of 35 students, but Dr. Muenker quickly reassured me that he does not foresee that happening. He was also confident that the vast majority of classes that students have today will be available next year (assuming of course there is sufficient student interest in the class).
Perhaps the best way I can summarize this situation is to say that the class your student is interested in will most likely be available to them next year, but it may not be taught by the teacher they might normally expect.
Another topic of particular interest to students and parents is a participation fee for extracurricular activities, which cost the district $1.6 million annually. The recommendation is that we recover approximately $250k in fees but an actual plan to do that is still to be determined. My guess is this will be a very tricky plan to implement as there are as many variables as there are activities themselves. If the board cannot come to an agreement as to how to recover these fees, we'll have to find another way to make up the difference.
The bottom line in this proposal is that it will cut our deficit by over $10 million, bringing the proposed tax increase down to 3.6% which is below the Act 1 limit of 4.1%. Not exactly a zero percent increase, but it's far better than the 12.5% increase we faced with the original $14 million deficit.
I'm sure you have many concerns about class sizes, staffing, extracurricular activities, etc. I strongly encourage you to bring your questions and comments directly to the board at our next meeting on Tuesday, May 5th.