Halifax budget looking better

By Rebecca Zemencik, Managing Editor                                                                                              rebecca-z@citizenstandard.com

HALIFAX – Dr. Michele Orner and her administrative team listened to the public’s comments earlier this month and went back to the drawing board to come up with a compromised proposed budget for the 2016-17 school year.
Last Thursday, Dr. Orner presented a budget plan that would spare teacher jobs and major program cuts by cutting several hundred thousand dollars from the original budget presented.

The $19.8 million budget presented last Thursday, will still include a deficit of $321,794 which is considerably lower than the $679,018 projected in the previous draft budget.
The administration is proposing the board consider proposing the plan that would include a slight property tax increase and also take money from the district’s fund balance.
In her presentation, Orner said the plan reduces expenditures by maximizing attrition within the middle school English language arts program. She said there is an expected teaching vacancy due to retirement, although she said she doesn’t have the intent to retire letter in her hand yet, but she would suggest the district not fill the vacancy and shift the duties of teachers within the middle and high schools.
Other saving measurers she pointed out would include the elimination of an administrative janitorial/maintenance position and changing the driver’s education program, which will still be offered to students, but they would need to pay a fee to participate.
Other savings she pointed out included increasing the ‘pay to play’ cost to $35.
Director Trudy Withers asked why the cost should only affect those students who participate in athletics. She sked why the same concept couldn’t be applied to those students who are also invovled in band or drama.
The fee is a one-time payment regardless of how many activities a student is involved in.
“This way all students who are invovled in something would pay to participate,” said Withers. “I’m sure there are some students who are invovled in music but aren’t invovled in sports.”
A discussion was also held on putting a moratorium on all district stipends.
“Since we are in a financial crisis, why can’t we enact a moratorium on all district stipends ?” asked Director Donna Rhode. “Can’t we just put a hold on them?”
Orner said she’s not sure what the legal ramifications are on putting a hold on the stipends.
Bower said the district curently spends $33,706 per year on the stipends and he said they are budgeted each year.
Orner said she has requested that each advisor fill out a survey she emailed to them a while back requesting how much time is spent on each club.
A committee to look into stipends has been formed and directors Withers, Robbie Eyster, and Brad Harker will serve on that committee.
A plan was presented in January of $20.1 million which included a tax increase over the previous school year. The board requested to see an alternative cost-cutting budget that did not include a tax increase. Earlier this month, administration proposed a $17 million plan which included massive cuts to academics, arts and athletics, among other programs. The community objected to that plan.
The board is expected to approve a proposed budget at the May 10 meeting with final approval at the June 14 meeting.
Dr. Orner thanked Business Director Michael Bower for all his work on the budget.

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