Board Cuts $5.5

Board Cuts $5.5

The School Board cut 2.2 percent from its budget down to the $347.9 million the county has allowed the school district to spend in fiscal year 2003.

School Board members had two lists of proposed cuts totaling $5.4 million to consider at the April 9 board meeting.

"When we look at these budget cuts tonight, we need to look at our School Board goals," said School Board member Patrick Chorpenning (Mercer).

School Board members voted for Superintendent Edgar Hatrick's list, which he said did not harm salaries, programs or staff positions. The cuts came in addition to the $9.4 million the School Board sliced from the $365 million budget Hatrick presented to the board earlier this year.

Hatrick's list cuts the new greeter program, eliminates 14.8 full-time equivalent teaching positions, delays new staff positions, delays and reduces new purchases, cuts the materials and supplies accounts by 3 percent and includes cuts to several other district-wide accounts.

"We don't have to cut programs and defer program enhancements. Dr. Hatrick has shown us how to cut ... 2 percent without doing these things," said School Board member Harry Holsinger (Blue Ridge).

SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS proposed individual cuts, which all failed. Warren Geurin (Sterling) moved to cut $1 million from full-time central staff positions, but his motion failed 8-1. Geurin submitted the other list of proposed cuts.

Hatrick said cutting the staff positions would affect students. "Central staff includes electricians, plumbers ... anyone not assigned to a school is a part of the central staff," he said. "That term 'central office' covers a lot of people our children see in our school every day."

Other proposed cuts included increasing the supplies cut from 3 to 5 percent, cutting the strings instrument program and eliminating an elementary school foreign language program . The motions all failed.

"This is a program that will bring us into the 20th century while we're in the 21st," Holsinger said in reference to Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools (FLES), which provides one hour of Spanish instruction at 10 schools and is scheduled to expand to all schools by 2005. "The propensity in our country is to be isolationists. Cutting this program perpetuates this."

Geurin, who proposed the cut to save $606,000, said the FLES program takes away from regular instruction. "It's nice to be Santa Claus, give the program for everybody. The reality is we simply can't have a program for everybody who shows interest and asks for it," he said.

JOHN ANDREWS (Broad Run) moved to cut the after-school elementary school strings program, which is scheduled to be implemented in the regular class day after five years.

"Strings are a nice thing to have, not a priority with the other things we have to deal with," Andrews said.

The board agreed to pass an amendment limiting expansion of the strings program, cutting funding from $269,000 to $175,000. The program will remain an after-school program for fourth through sixth graders next year.

The cut adds another $110,000 to the board's cuts, bringing the total to $5.53 million. The board unanimously passed the budget to send to the Board of Supervisors.

"Potentially, we're going to be facing serious budget issues in 2004. We need to start addressing concerns in the future today," said Chairman Joseph Vogric (Dulles), adding that Hatrick's cuts were "done in a matter that is the least painful. In FY04, it might not be this easy."