Go ahead.Ã‚Â Cut Hannibal’s school budget for 2010-11.Ã‚Â There’s a deficit, so make the cuts necessary to fill the hole.
Eliminate ten teaching and teacher aid jobs. Get rid of sports, all of it.Ã‚Â No senior play, no senior trip, no junior prom, no yearbook, no mock trial, no OCAY league team.Ã‚Â Get rid of some BOCES services.Ã‚Â Buy fewer textbooks.Ã‚Â Cut the snow plowing budget and take the risk.Ã‚Â And more.
Cut it all.
It isn’t enough. Not even close.
Hannibal Superintendent Mike DiFabio showed the community Wednesday night a budget that begins with a $1.7 million dollar deficit just to keep everything the way it is now.Ã‚Â The state’s cutting Hannibal’s aid (and every other district’s aid) while salaries and benefits go up.
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All of the cuts he outlined would fill only $1 million of the $1.7 million gap and would create a school with large class sizes, few or no college level courses and other electives and lots of extra study halls.Ã‚Â Some of the cuts, such as a $100,000 cut in professional development costs, may be illegal.Ã‚Â The BOCES cuts would hurt the district the following year because BOCES money spent in one year is reimbursed the next year.
And the remaining $700,000 gap would still require a huge tax increase.
“I gotta tell you,” DiFabio told the board of education and a large audience, “I can’t do all of this.”
Teacher and football coach John Manion told the board about his experiences in the Frankfort-Schuyler school district in 1990 with a bare bones budget that cut all sports and extras.Ã‚Â He said vandalism, teen pregnancy, teen drinking and absenteeism rose sharply.Ã‚Â Morale sank.Ã‚Â He said kids from neighboring districts would drive into town and taunt students, “Who you playing tonight?Ã‚Â Oh, sorry.Ã‚Â Nobody!”
There are still some unknowns.Ã‚Â No staff members have announced an intention to retire yet, though at least some would have to be replaced.Ã‚Â State aid won’t be known until sometime after April 1, when the state budget is approved, though DiFabio has said the district would be lucky if it didn’t suffer a deeper cut.Ã‚Â And a health insurance change that could save $200,000 is not in place yet.
DiFabio asked the board to give him a target tax levy increase, but board members said no, not yet.
Instead, they will first ask the district’s unions to discuss contract concessions.
“I think we owe it to the community to go down that road,” said board member Matt Henderson. “I know that people are hurting and I looked at my own tax bill and I’m not wild about paying more.”
“That means reopening the contract and that gets sticky,” said board president Dale Young, who said that the last time they asked the unions to discuss concessions, two bargaining units refused to talk with the board.Ã‚Â The head of the CSEA unit said afterwards that his unit was willing to discuss concessions but only if all the units did the same thing.
“We have a 3 1/2% (salary) increase coming up and as far as I’m concerned,” said board member Fred Patane, “2% is what we could use back.Ã‚Â If somebody doesn’t want to give, then we have a problem.”
Henderson noted that there were lots of ways for staff members to help besides a reduction in salary increases and hoped that some would come forward with an idea and push their union leaders to come to the table.Ã‚Â Because the problem is statewide, there won’t be other jobs for laid off teachers “so they may listen this year.
“It can’t just be ‘us versus them’.”
“There is no one at this table who wants to cut things,” said board member Linda Warrick.
“It’s got to be a community effort,” said Young.Ã‚Â “Our heart is with the kids.”
The board agreed to wait a week before asking the unions to discuss concessions, to give DiFabio time to make his budget presentation to the staffs of all three buildings.
Board member Donna Ingersoll praised the thorough presentation and summed it up in one word: Grim.