Minerva Central School Board members review budget cuts during their June 3 meeting.
On Monday, June 3, the Minerva Central School Board finalized a round of cuts to the school’s 2013-2014 budget in preparation for a new vote.
The school’s first proposed budget was voted down by the community on May 21, and on May 23 School Board members decided to cut the spending plan by $192,000 in order to make it more palatable for the second and final vote on June 18. On June 3, they decided where those cuts would be made.
Board members accepted the cuts proposed by school Superintendent Tim Farrell. They eliminated six part-time positions from various programs: physical education (including driver’s education), band, 7-12 social studies, an undetermined elementary teaching position, one cleaner, and one cafeteria helper. Replacing carpet in several classrooms has also been postponed.
The decision came after two-and-half hours of community members passionately lobbying to save anything they could. Tensions ran high all throughout the meeting, especially in regards to the band program. Not one person who spoke wanted to see it go.
“I do not see anything on this list that isn’t upsetting,” Farrell said of the cuts he suggested. At this point, however, the school’s options are limited.
Danae Tucker, whose children all attend MCS, proposed that the school apply for grants that might save the band. Other members in attendance suggested that full-time positions at the school be reduced or eliminated instead. Board members were quick to point out that the school can’t rely on money they have no guarantee of receiving, and Farrell noted that reducing full-time positions was a “very bad direction to go in.” Both Farrell and the Board said they worry that cutting positions from core programs like math, science, and English would ruin MCS students’ quality of education.
Still, those positions might have to be reduced if the budget fails a second time. Such a vote would force the school into a contingency budget: cutting extracurricular programs like Youth and Government, Odyssey of the Mind, Academic Bowl, and assorted field trips. Full-time positions in the school library, art department, secondary math/science programs, and elementary program would be reduced to part-time. Lastly, the school would have to cease offering free lunch to its students. MCS is unique in that it has never charged for meals. The prospect was particularly upsetting to the community members in attendance, several of whom favored restructuring the school to be more cost-effective.
“The wheel has rolled pretty well until now,” Steve McNally said, “But it’s time to reinvent it.”
School Board President Michael Corey lamented the cuts.
“We’re being prepared to dismantle the school,” Corey said.
This is Corey’s last year on the board, and he said he wishes his departure could have been under happier circumstances. This is the first year during Corey’s tenure that voters have defeated the school budget.
“After 14 years, this is my legacy?” Corey said. “I feel (bad) about that.”
After the meeting, Farrell said, “It wasn’t the outcome I’d hoped for, but given the situation, I don’t know if I could have hoped for anything more.”
The new budget will have to be approved by a vote on Tuesday, June 18, held from 1 to 8 p.m. The budget presentation/hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 11.