ELIZABETHTOWN - Despite cries from dozens of attendants at a May 11 public hearing, members of the Elizabethtown-Lewis School Board gave no indication they would consider revising their budget before it goes to vote May 18.
Nearly 80 people assembled in the school's auditorium, most speaking against a proposal in the budget to cut four-and-a-half teaching positions.
Superintendent Gail Else reviewed the aspects of the proposed budget, which includes a zero-percent tax levy increase.
Else highlighted how a 10-percent reduction in the school's state aid contributed heavily to a $722,000 gap the district needed to fill to avoid any increase in the tax levy. This after the state delayed nearly $400,000 in promised aid earlier this year.
"I think we need to have some grave concern for the sources of our funds," Else said.
Meanwhile, enrollment is expected to continue its steady decline from the past six years, especially in the elementary grades.
"We are kind of getting to the point where we can't really afford what we would like to do," said Else, "so what can you do to make what we would like to do less costly?"
According to Else, reducing four elementary teaching positions and combining classes would bring the average class size to 19 with classrooms ranging between 14 and 25 children. If teaching assistants and aides are included, the student to staff ratio would be seven to one.
Besides cutting staff, the budget freezes salaries for non-instructional staff, including the superintendent.
Still, many in attendance at the public hearing felt the cuts to staff ran too deep.
"We felt the budget cuts were handled inappropriately," said First Grade teacher Robin Jones on behalf of the ELCS Teachers' Association, noting how cost-cutting ideas brought by teachers in budget workshops were seemingly ignored.
"Instead of working together on saving money, heavy cuts were made to faculty," she added.
Jones said the teachers were "shocked and hurt" by the way teachers were notified of the layoffs, especially having been given no prior indication of possible cuts to staff.
"I would like to think that someone would have come back to the teachers and said, 'we have to cut this much money; what other ideas do you have?'" said AIS/Math teacher Deborah Egglefield.
"We just don't feel that we've been included in the budget process," she added.
Many of the parents present at the meeting shared similar concerns, complaining how teacher positions were bearing the brunt of budget cuts.
"We feel that our idea were heard, but not considered," said Karin DeMuro, who is running for a seat on the school board. "We urge you to respect the community by revising and re-allocating the funds."
Several others echoed that sentiment, including ELCS students Zach Denton and Brody Hooper, who read letters to the school board opposing the cuts.
Hooper, a freshman, said the decision to cut the half-time Spanish teacher position interfered with his education.
"It holds me back from receiving an Advanced Regents diploma unless I take a special course that does not fit in with my class schedule," he said.
Still, with so many people urging for revision of the budget, members of the school board refused to take another look.
"As difficult as that decision was to make, I think that was the right decision," said Brett Sicola, the most recent addition to the school board.
Sicola said he would like to see more cuts made, including possibly consolidating clerical or administrative positions, but said he would not cut one job to save another.
"We're not going to reallocate the funds at all," said board president William Haseltine.
A date of May 20 was set for the next board meeting.