By TIMOTHY COX
St. Marys City Schools board of education members are to begin
discussions this evening on potential budget-cutting moves to
head off a future deficit. Among the possible reductions is
closure of at least one of the district’s elementary schools.
The school board holds its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the
high school library. Administra-tion officials and board members
are expected to discuss how they will balance the budget, but
no decisions are expected to be made at that time.
“There will definitely be plenty of discussion,”
said Rees McKee, recently elected to the board.
But McKee was hesitant to discuss whether the district might
be forced to close an elementary school to balance its finances.
Speculation has swirled for weeks about the fate of Moulton
and Noble elementary schools.
Administration officials already have provided board members
with a list of potential cuts to consider, McKee said, although
he would not discuss specific items on the list. He admitted,
though, that “just about everything” is on the list.
Another new board member, Craig Gottschalk concurred, saying
that “anything and everything will be on the table.”
McKee and Gottschalk both cautioned that no decisions are likely
at tonight’s meeting. The public apparently will have
an opportunity to contribute to the discussion.
“I know there has been a lot of talk about the possibility
of Moulton or Noble schools being closed to save money, but
as far as I know, we won’t be closing any schools tonight,”
McKee said. “This thing is too big. We need more discussion.”
Superintendent Paul Blaine could not be reached this morning
in his office.
School district officials have projected a budget deficit of
$1.8 million to end 2006 that would grow to $7.6 million in
2008, assuming there are no budget reductions or new levies
to boost revenue.
Treasurer Peg Grimm has estimated that $2.4 million-$3.6 million
in annual cuts would be necessary through 2008 without any new
Board members have placed a five-year, 7.9-mill property tax
levy on the March 2 ballot to help offset some of the project
shortfall. That levy would generate $1.84 million annually.
A 1 percent income tax ballot issue that would have brought
in $2.1 million annually failed at the polls last November,
along with a separate building issue. The failure of the income
tax forced school board members to look at future budget cuts
because state law requires any district do so if its five-year
financial forecast shows a deficit in any year.
Board members have set aside the building issue for now, instead
choosing to focus on fixing the operating budget problems.