Stratford School budget cuts announced
January 20, 2010
STRATFORD — The Stratford School Board announced at a public budget hearing last Wednesday, Jan. 13, that they had reduced the school budget by $271,256 to keep the town going for three to five more years — about $30,000 less then the $300,000 of cuts asked by the town.
It was at a previous public School Board meeting back on Nov. 18 that the majority of the public present voted to adjust the school budget to keep all grades K-12 in Stratford and reduce the budget by $300,000. There were also those that didn't want to sacrifice any part of the budget.
"A lot of people seemed to indicate that if we weren't going to tuition students then they didn't want to see a lot of cuts, but that was not one of the options available," said Stratford Public School Principal Dan Shallow.
Despite the cuts the Board assured the public that the school would remain an accredited and a state approved school system.
The big cuts that the board proposed included dropping one computer teacher completely and several more teaching positions to part time: Family and Consumer Science, art, and business. The half-time employees reduce costs as it eliminates their benefits. The assistant principal stipend will also be reduced and the athletics program for the school will be cut entirely.
"We can only cut big chunks out of the budget through staffing and major programs," said Mr. Shallow.
For this year Title I funding and the stimulus grant cover the cost of the after school program and summer program, but according to the Board, the school will not be able to afford it next year.
This was a topic of contention amongst the public and the board as there were 35 students that participated in the summer program last year from the elementary school and 20 to 30 students currently are involved in the after school program. With a student body of 107 students, those figures equate to a significant participation rate.
"I am a little concerned about the cutting of the after school and summer program and make a suggestion that if there is grant money available then we should pursue that," said Patricia Stinson, "I believe a lot of students participate in those programs ... from what I've heard and I'm concerned those kids might not pick up a book all summer."
During the nonpublic session, the board decided that it would strive to find a means of keeping the after school and summer programs and is currently trying to do so through grants and reassessing the budget, according to Mr. Shallow.
If the town asks for more money to be cut from the budget, then the board has decided that the next item for the chopping block would be the music program — to be reduced to a half time position saving $26,000. Any further reductions beyond that will start to affect the Elementary School, according to the Board.
Priority of programs returned
If the town decides that too much has already been cut and the budget is raised, then the board has outlined the order to what that money will be put towards. First if $2,000 would be added then a correspondence course to give students opportunities to take electives they don't currently have. The next $12,000 would be put towards the after school program, and $13,000 would be allocated for the summer program. After that, the staff for four courses would return to full time in the following order $15,800 for FACS, $24,500 for business, $44,700 for art and lastly $47,500 for computer.
The board discussed how to raise revenue for the school by offering certain opportunities to attract more students. For the first time this year the school is offering students 15 potential credits that would be transferable to all N.H. and Vt. state colleges through Advanced Placement and the College Level Examination Program. It comes at no extra cost to the school, but has a cost to the student as the courses are already being taught for high school credit, noted Mr. Shallow.
Another thing the Board is looking at is an emotionally handicapped program where if the district has emotional handicapped students, then instead of sending them out of the district they would come to Stratford. There are three or four of these students in the district now and if it costs about $40,000 a year to tuition out each student then the $160,000 spent would more then pay for a teacher with a specialized certification degree in emotionally handicapped children for Stratford to hire, according to the Board.