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Waynesboro Area schools chief tries to talk board out of budget cuts

May 21, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- The Waynesboro Area School District's top administrator's presentation was reminiscent of a credit card commercial as she talked Tuesday to nine school board members, some of whom are pushing strongly for budget cuts.

School supplies: $90,000

Field trips: $25,000

Athletics: $630,000

Good will: Priceless

Elimination of items such as these would lead to "loss of school and community pride and further, support for schools," said Gloria Walker, who is serving as the district's interim superintendent.

"We believe school spirit and community spirit are intertwined," she said.

About one-third of the board members blasted Walker for failing to give them information in the manner requested. Board member Firmadge Crutchfield referred to her efforts as a "gratuitous memo we were presented versus the specific information we requested."

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Board member Leland Lemley drew attention to past meeting minutes asking the administration to present several scenarios of cuts ranging from $1 million to $1.8 million.

"I don't see anything in here that shows you made any effort to do that. I just sat here and listened to you give a 30-minute tongue-lashing from you to the board," Lemley said, adding that Walker's presentation of the memo was just "showing that you can read."

"It's not our responsibility as administrators to make cuts," Walker said.

Tempers have flared several times in the past two months during budget negotiations.

At issue is a 2008-09 budget with $48.9 million worth of proposed expenditures. The board faces a $1.4 million deficit that could translate into a 4-mill property tax increase, or $69 for the average homeowner.

Walker has given the board a list of budget items not mandated by the state.

Among items on the list are staff development, classroom aides, travel for the high school's award-winning Future Business Leaders of America program, fees for Manito Alternative High School and the district's contribution to the adult education/GED program.

"(General) elementary teachers can teach art and music as part of their certification," Walker said. That would mean planning periods would be affected, she said.

The board also could save $125,000 by eliminating noontime transportation of kindergarten students. Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory for Pennsylvania children, so Walker theorized that enrollment would drop if midday transportation was not provided.

Eliminating music programs and/or athletics would have "a very powerful impact on schools and the community," Walker said. "We believe students stay in school because of their participation in these programs."

The board plans to meet Tuesday to look at some items in more detail.

"We're now in our sixth workshop, and I have yet to see any specifics. ... I'm not convinced there's nothing to cut," Crutchfield said.

Items under consideration for cuts from the Waynesboro Area School Board's 2008-09 budget include:

· Elementary art, music and Spanish

· Athletics

· Middle and high school band and chorus

· Field trips

· Noontime transportation for kindergarten

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