Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Amid cuts, district looks at needs list

January 21, 2004

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The Lawrence school district will consider proposals for $2.7 million in new spending despite bleak prospects for an increase in state funding for education, the district's budget committee decided Tuesday.

"They are things that we need," said Supt. Randy Weseman. "They are deserving of a hearing."

While he supports the review of enhancements, he said the district would likely need to identify $1.5 million in possible cuts to guarantee a balanced 2004-2005 budget.

Proposals for new spending:

  • $800,000 for classified salaries.
  • $550,000 for 20 new special education staff.
  • $497,000 for 11 elementary school teachers to keep class sizes down.
  • $350,000 for eight computer technicians and specialists.

This was the first meeting of the committee, which will send a package of recommendations to the school board this spring.

Leni Salkind, school board vice president and budget committee member, said adopting portions of the $2.7 million wish list would trigger reductions in spending elsewhere in the district.

"If we need to add any of these additional things, we're going to need to cut," she said.

That comes as no shock for teachers, principals, administrators and counselors on the committee. They've worked with the board during the past two years to eliminate or reallocate millions of dollars from the district's budget.

A school board study session Monday night should shed light on whether the board is interested in identifying "sacred cows" in the budget.

"Do we start where we left off last year?" asked Kathy Johnson, the district's finance director. "Do we put everything back on the table?"

Committee member Jane Scarffe, who teaches at Schwegler School, said the district might want to consider budget-cutting options certain to generate controversy.

"I hate to even bring this up," she warned.

Scarffe asked whether it might be necessary to close schools. The school board voted to close three elementary buildings in 2003. Scarffe also suggested evaluation of a four-day school week or a year-round school calendar to save money.

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