Lake has no funds left for programs
Written by DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer
Saturday, 21 September 2013 07:02
MILLBURY - With the Lake Board of Education giving raises and signing contracts, some teachers and parents want to know if there's any money left in the till for their programs.
No - or, at least, not yet.
At Wednesday's meeting, the board of education was asked about funding some extracurricular adviser positions, including quiz bowl and drama club, and reinstating all-day everyday kindergarten.
Parent Kris Lovell, Millbury, asked the board to pay quiz bowl adviser Nikki Bazzoli, who put in 20 hours a month with the students and led the middle school team to a top 10 national title this spring.
Lovell said with Lake offering few gifted programs, the quiz bowl is a necessity.
"Quiz bowl's an opportunity for them to be intelligent," she said.
"You walk a fine line of picking and choosing what you bring back," said board member Scott Swartz. "We just don't have the money to bring that back when we have teachers who are RIF-ed (reduction in force)."
Faced with a $1.1 million budget hole after voters rejected two levies in 2011, the board last year slashed 43 positions and the all-day everyday kindergarten program, to close a deficit looming in 2013.
Later in 2012, voters approved a 6.75-mill, three-year levy that generates $1.47 million annually. Slowly, the district has started spending, giving teachers raises early this summer and handing out administrative increases on Wednesday. Many staff hadn't had salary adjustments in four years.
Superintendent Jim Witt said the board has to consider what the community told it in 2011 when the levies failed.
"You need to cut," he said was the message. "It's affected kids' lives. It's affected teachers' lives. We understand that."
Board president Tim Krugh said extracurricular and assistant coaching positions are in line for reinstatement if Lake's finances get a boost from the state. But, he said, they are down the line.
"The extracurricular programs like quiz bowl or drama club … those are great programs, they're all important, but the classroom is where we'll look at bringing things back," Krugh said.
Lake Elementary Principal Christie McPherson said the board should consider the kindergarten program if money is available. She said staff is seeing the negative results of last year's kindergartners having 90 days of school instead of 180.
On Wednesday, the board rejected a recommendation by the co-curricular committee to reinstate high school quiz bowl as a paid position for $1,782. It was approved as volunteer.
The board also rejected the committee's recommendation to reinstate a slew of assistant coaching positions, which were cut in March 2012. They include assistant soccer, volleyball, basketball and football, with payment ranging from $5,021 to $1,782.
The board did approve a recommendation from the committee to combine the positions and pay for National Honor Society and Helping Hands. The new title is National Honor Society/Students in Action with a pay of $1,782.
Rick Brimmer, who is band director at Lake and president of the Lake Education Association, criticized that vote. He said the board could have impacted more students - 150 - by creating a high school/middle school drama club adviser for $972.
"It seems we find the money for the things we think are important," he said.
Board members said they sympathized with all the requests.
"We're listening. We're hearing what's going on. We'll do what we can do," said Brad Delventhal.
"If we had our choice and we had funding, those things would be in tomorrow," said John Ervin.
Also at the meeting, the board:
• Approved 2013-14 appropriations totaling $17.7 million. They include $14 million in the general fund and $570,089 in capital projects.
• Accepted donations from St. Paul's United Methodist Church, school supplies; Ruth Maher, cases of Gatorade; Rufas Wallace, three cases of spiral notebooks; class of 1962, $203 for music department; Walbridge Centennial, $50 for art club, and Richard Welling, 2010 law books.