Northgate keeps cuts in proposed final budget

By VICKI MORTIMER

After hearing from those opposed to some of the cuts made to balance the Northgate School District’s 2011-12 budget, the board voted Monday to propose a spending plan with no tax increase, and no funding for full-day kindergarten, a spring musical, or several teaching positions.

About 15 students concerned about the reduction of funding for the high school musical told the board that the musical taught them the value of hard work, was a lot of fun, brought the students closer, let students express themselves, and improved the students' singing and acting abilities.

High school principal Bryan Kyle stated that the musical involved 80 to 100 students every year, and the board should listen to what the students had to say.

Students also urged the board to keep family and consumer science teachers Connie Reeb and Amy Weryha, as well as industrial arts teachers Regis McDevitt and Clayton Berwick. The students praised Reeb and Weryha, telling the board how much they learned in the teachers' classes, as well as how they could talk to the teachers about anything.

Four teaching positions were targeted for furlough by the board, with seniority deciding which specific teachers would be laid off in each of the targeted departments. The board voted Monday to eliminate one mathematics position, one family and consumer science position, one technology education position, and an English position, all at the high school.

Superintendent Dr. Reggie Bonfield said that any teachers furloughed could be reinstated if the district receives more funding than anticipated.

Adult participants at the meeting maintained that administrators and teachers should make concessions in order to help the latest budget crisis. Susan Nolan, board president, reminded those present that the entire administration already had agreed to a pay freeze.

Reducing full-day kindergarten to a half-day program continued to have its opponents among board members. Shannon Smithey said that a half-mill property tax increase would allow the district to keep full-day kindergarten. A half-mill increase would translate to $61 per year for her family, she said, an amount she stated that she would be willing to pay to keep the program.

Board member Timothy Makatura stated that eventually the board was going to have to raise taxes, and a half-mill would be only a short term solution. The district will need concessions from all District employees, he said.

Marita Bartholomew said that she would not be willing to raise taxes just to keep full-day kindergarten. She agreed that the small tax increase would be only a short term fix. Full-day kindergarten was started in the district because it was paid for by a grant, she stated, and that grant is now gone.

Daniel O'Keefe stated that while in favor of full-day kindergarten, he agreed that the half-mill increase was a temporary band-aid. He said that he was not in favor of a tax increase to pay for the program unless the board came up with a plan for keeping it for more than one year.

Shirl Reinhart said that she had made several alternative suggestions for cutting expenses, but that they had been ignored. She said that only some programs had been considered, not all of the programs that could possibly be cut. She suggested that the district lay off secretaries or a principal and have one principal for both elementary schools.

Board member Dave Natale said he believed that the board should be able to balance the budget without raising taxes. He stressed that senior citizens and other residents of the district just could not afford another tax increase.

Anthony Barbarino stated that he would prefer to see concessions from the teachers and administrators before raising taxes.

The board 8-1 voted to approve the proposed budget for 2011-12 with no tax increase. Reinhart voted no, and Paladin was absent from the meeting. Nolan stressed that the budget is not yet set in stone, and can be changed prior to the board's final vote on June 20.

The proposed final budget is available for inspection in the district's administrative center, located at the junior/senior high school, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Barbarino asked if the budget could be posted on the district's Web site, and Nolan indicated that she would see if this could be done.

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