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At the March 27 work session and public hearing on the proposed 2001-2002 school district budget, the Board of Education heard public commentary, discussed the merits and drawbacks of potential cuts, and ultimately added a few items back into the proposed budget, most notably, continuation of the current Driver Education program at Schreiber H.S. At the end of the meeting, the first of two public hearings on the budget, the total for the proposed 2001-2002 budget stood at $80,773,334, according to an Administration spokesperson. From an earlier proposed budget, cuts totaling $2,569,755 were made, but the new total is still an increase of 8.79% over last year's budget. The school board will hold a vote to adopt the budget at its Tuesday, April 3 meeting. Other topics were reviewed at this meeting as well; they will be covered in next week's issue.

A chart distributed at the 3/27 meeting detailed the recommended reductions in the budget, and the savings that would be realized. While the school board ultimately decided to retain Driver Ed and offer late busing for the high school, which changed at least two of the numbers that follow, the list below gives a sense of the areas targeted for cuts:

* Custodial staffing, benefits, overtime..................................$ 40,000

* Administrative staffing, benefits......................................... .. l05,000

* Clerical staffing, benefits........................................................86,250

* Teacher staffing, benefits, retirements............................ .1,244,130

* Para-professional subs.......................................................... 20,000

* Building entrance aides, benefits, elementary....................................86,000

* Technology: hardware,software, training..............................195,300

* Computer mobile carts, elementary.......................................200,000

* Clubs at current level...............................................................30,000

* Transportation; enrollment, HS late bus................................176,000

* Transfer to capital..................................................................340,000

There was an outpouring of support for continuation of the current Driver Education program from parents, students, teachers, and even Schreiber principal Sid Barish. Previously, there had been a board discussion of possibly converting the program to a before- or after-school, fee-based one. The fact that many students have already signed up for it (and there are reportedly no remaining spots at private training schools), and that it would become a financial hardship for many, seemed to sway the school board. "An outside program is not the same quality as the one we now have at the high school," the Technology /Driver Education Chairman said. "With so many kids working after school and on weekends, it leaves them no time to take private instruction." School board member Peter Wezenaar made a motion to put Driver Education back in to the budget; it was seconded by BOE member Dean Nardone. The motion passed.

The school board also voted to restore funding for late busing -- for middle and high school students -- to the budget. But some efforts to cut other expenditures failed, like attempts to eliminate the Frost Valley trip for sixth-graders. And while many community members advocated for the hiring of a fourth assistant principal at Weber Middle School, to head the new house, this expenditure was postponed for another year. The community was also assured that there will be a PEP program for eighth-graders next year. "There will be staffing for 8th grade PEP," Superintendent Albert Inserra maintained.

The second public hearing date on the budget is scheduled for May 8; the budget vote is set for May 15.


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