Board discusses music, class size and demotion at budget workshop
By K.C. McConnell, News Editor
School board president Karen Cruickshank politely asked the crowd who had come to support T/E’s elementary school music program. As dozens of hands shot up in the air, Cruickshank sent out a clear warning to those concerned with the future of third-grade violin lessons.
“Standing up and supporting your favorite program, your favorite group, or your favorite cause will not help our budget issues,” she said.
T/E’s elementary music program was one of the many issues discussed at the T/E school board budget workshop, held at Conestoga on April 16. Though the board ultimately decided to rule against cutting elementary school music in a 5-4 vote, members made it clear that changes would need to be made in order to better balance the budget.
Increasing school class sizes by one and two students was another suggested strategy for reducing the deficit. Increasing class sizes would allow T/E to reduce its number of staff and salaries and could save $345,000. However, the impact of increasing class sizes would only be clear when final enrollment numbers could be determined—an impossible task, given that kindergarten enrollment will continue through the summer. Changing laws in the Pennsylvania legislature is also a potential obstacle to budget planning.
“Sometimes, it’s reading tea leaves,” board member Richard Brake said.
Despite knowing little about what future enrollment numbers would bring to T/E, the board voted to increase class size by one student at each level. The Board also voted to demote some members of the professional staff in order to decrease the budget deficit. The demotion will involve making a full-time member of staff into a part-time member, or reducing the hours for a part-time member of staff. The demotions are not required to occur in the reverse order of seniority and are estimated to save $640,328.
The board has currently accepted $1.1 million in budget strategies in order to reduce the $6.2 million deficit for the 2012-2013 school year. Budget deliberations will continue on into the late spring and summer, as the board meets next Monday for its regular monthly meeting, with the next Finance Committee meeting to be held on May 7.
K.C. McConnell can be reached at email@example.com.