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‘No Magic Answers’ in Superintendent’s School Budget

Garden City Board of Education considers making tough cuts

As the Garden City Board of Education considers making reductions in the district’s 2012-13 school budget, there are “no magic answers,” according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen.

On Tuesday, March 20 at Garden City High School, Feirsen presented a summary of the proposed budget for the 2012-13 school year to the board and discussed what could possibly be cut.

The evening’s presentation was a summary of the contents of the superintendent’s budget proposal for 2012-13. The proposals offered are recommendations to the board of education from the administration. The board will adopt the budget on April 17.

The Garden City School District’s proposed 2012-13 overall budget remains at $104,976,751, which represents a budget-to-budget increase of $3,859,693 or 3.82 percent. The projected tax levy increase (with STAR) is 4.25 percent and the maximum allowable tax levy is 4.3 percent.

During his summation, Feirsen stressed that that every school district has to make hard choices, not just Garden City. “The budget as I presented to you makes no major changes in programs. There are no magic answers; it’s not like some other school district knows what we don’t,” Feirsen said.

What are other local school districts doing in these fiscally challenging times? Feirsen asserted that they are “closing buildings; they are raising class sizes; they are reducing high school electives. They are thinking about ending half-day kindergarten.”

School Board President Colleen Foley maintained that while she appreciated that the budget includes reductions of athletics teams, she questioned the value of the strength and conditioning program and the early morning gym programs in the fall and summer.

The proposed budget already includes a reduction in the strength and conditioning program and cuts the days and times down to one hour a day, four times a week.

“Those are not academic programs; these are things that we might be able to do without. I understand anything that the board brings up tonight or talks about tonight is going to affect a person and it’s going to be somebody’s program, but we have gotten input from the community that we need to take a look at how to reduce taxes,” concurred Foley.

She added, “at this point in time, the way we are going to do that is look at programs that are attached to personnel.”

School Board Vice President Barbara Trapasso commented that the early morning program is very popular with parents. Trustee Laura Hastings suggested charging for the program, but Foley said it could be a high fee.

Trustee Angela Heineman said students use other gym facilities in Garden City. “We are not in the business of being a gym,” she said.

In an effort to better understand the number of students using the programs, Trapasso requested that the Athletics Director Nancy Kalafus research how many children use the program in the summer and fall and report back to the board.

To reduce budget expenditures, Heineman also suggested eliminating the purchase of one new school bus ($130,000) and a maintenance van ($60,000), which would save the district a total of $190,000.

Superintendent for Business and Finance Albert Chase said that while eliminating those purchases is an easy solution, the district has been purchasing buses at a “less than optimal rate” in order to keep up its fleet.

“The downside of that is that five to seven years from now this district will have a tremendous expense if we continue the same busing policies in buying. Eighty percent of our fleet is going to be 15 years old and that’s not a good thing,” Chase concluded.