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Hannibal Voters OK Budget, Cut Down Size of Board of Ed

A Hannibal taxpayer prepares to vote as district clerk Lisa Shortslef tends to the voting machine.
A Hannibal taxpayer prepares to vote as district clerk Lisa Shortslef tends to the voting machine.

After months of tension and trauma, Hannibal’s proposed 2010-11 school budget passed by a comfortable margin Tuesday night.

The 528-435 win means that a $25 million budget is adopted that cuts into a successful elementary reading program, cuts teachers in core subjects at the high school, ends band for 5th graders, rolls back gains in school cleaning that helped reduce absenteeism, and preserves modified and varsity sports.

District clerk Lisa Shortslef tallies votes from the districts two voting machines.
District clerk Lisa Shortslef tallies votes from the districts two voting machines.

The strain of coping with more than $1 million in state aid cuts exposed problems some board members have with district administrators, culminating in the board’s recent rejection of a contract extension for Superintendent of Schools Mike DiFabio.

“It’s very positive,” said DiFabio of the outcome of the budget vote. “Now we can start working on the next one.”

Next year’s budget is likely to require even more cutbacks. Federal stimulus funds run out after next school year and schools face another steep jump in costs for employee retirements.

Turnout was fairly heavy.

Voters approved buying two new school buses, 566-377. They approved reducing the Board of Education from 9 members to 7, 579-272.

Mike LaFurney accepts congratulations moments after learning he had been elected to the Hannibal Board of Education.
Mike LaFurney accepts congratulations moments after learning he had been elected to the Hannibal Board of Education.

Six people wanted to fill one of three seats on the Hannibal Board of Education. The winners were Mike LaFurney, a former board member and the person behind the campaign to reduce the board to 7 members, with 508 votes; Erin Hess, with 489 votes; and Madeline Pittorf, with 427 votes. LaFurney and Hess win 5 year terms on the board. Pittorf will fill the unexpired one year term of a board member who resigned.

Gregory Stupp finished fourth, with 369 votes; former board member Robert Kidd finished fifth with 321 votes and Georgianna Otis finished sixth with 269 votes.

The approval of the plan to reduce the Board of Education means that there can be no election for board members until the board is down to 7 members. Incumbent board member Fred Patane has already said he does not plan to run when his term is up next year. Unless another board member decides to leave before his or her term is up, Pittorf will not be able to run for reelection.