School board holds budget for music funds

March 03, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

School board holds budget for music funds

Washington County Board of Education members will not adopt the school system's budget today as planned, deciding instead to take time to find ways to fund an elementary school instrumental music program, officials said.

The school board was scheduled to approve the budget at tonight's meeting, but members said Monday they need more time to revise it. The original spending plan did not contain funding to restore the instrumental music program, which was cut in 1995.

Robert L. Kline, president of the school board, said he has been combing through the $108 million budget trying to find a way to shave $300,000 from other programs.


"You just can't suck $300,000 out of your thumb," he said. "It's no easy job."

Estimates of the cost for restoring the program range from $225,000 to $350,000.

A groundswell of support has developed for restoring the program, under which elementary school students left class periodically for music lessons. About 150 people crowded a school board meeting last week to lobby for the program.

Members of the Washington County Alliance for Elementary Instrumental Music, which formed to fight for instrumental music in the elementary schools, praised the school board's decision to search for funding.

Tina Younker, co-chair of the alliance, said the group has not proposed specific cuts because school board members have more intimate knowledge of the intricacies of the budget.

"There's probably some fat in there that we can't necessarily see," she said.

The idea of restoring the program in time for the next school year remains controversial.

Board member Doris J. Nipps reiterated her concerns about rushing to restore the program.

Nipps said a committee studying curriculum issues should consider the matter and determine the best approach. She said that would allow the school system to restore instrumental music in time for the 1999-2000 school year.

"The board has gotten some bad press in the past that we haven't planned things out," she said.

While the board has received many requests to add funds for instrumental music to the budget, Nipps said she has not heard one suggestion of what could be cut.

Adding more money is probably unrealistic and cutting would be difficult, especially considering board members do not want to affect the school system's reading program and planned pay raises for teachers, she said.

Kline said he remains committed to funding the program this year.

"It should have never been cut in the first place," he said.

Kline spent Monday coming up with a list of suggested savings.

For instance, the budget proposal calls for buying seven lawn mowers.

"Maybe we can cut out half of them," he said.

That would save about $50,000.

Kline also said it might be possible to cut $10,000 from the $40,000 budget for substitute teachers.

The budget also calls for spending $100,000 to fix the floor at Hickory Elementary School. Kline said he would investigate whether the repairs could wait a year.

"It all adds up," he said.

Board Vice President B. Marie Byers said she hopes the school system also will be able to find additional sources of revenue. Winning more grant money for other projects could free up money for the music program, she said.

The instrumental music program is not the only subject board members face, Byers said. She said the board must address class sizes at Old Forge and Greenbrier elementary schools and technology issues, among other things.

"All in all, there are a number of questions and issues that need to be addressed," she said.

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. said Washington County officials have agreed to push back the budget presentation to March 25. A hearing on the proposal has been scheduled for March 19.

That will give school board members time to meet several times to discuss possible changes to the budget, Bartlett said.

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