Thursday, May 9, 2002

Cape schools cut another $161,000

Published in the Current

The Cape School Board has cut an additional $161,000 from the 2002-2003 school budget, and will ask the Town Council to forgo an additional $30,557 in cuts it had originally requested.

The new cuts include $8,000 in district funding for freshman athletics; $10,000 in transportation costs for field trips; $40,000 in maintenance by not filling an open maintenance position and cutting back on some projects; and a $70,000 reduction in the budget surplus.

A further $27,000 will be saved by having lower fuel costs than originally
projected, and the district may also see $6,000 in savings with a new phone system.

The board will keep $70,000 in discretionary reserves it can spend without consulting the council. The amount had concerned several councilors when the board presented the budget.

Boosters fund most of the cost of freshman athletics now, said Superintendent Tom Forcella, and will have to bear all the cost next year or those programs will be reduced. The cut in funding for field trips means parents will be asked to pay a dollar or two more.

“Instead of $4 to see a play it might be $5 or $6,” Forcella said.

The cuts take the budget increase to 4.2 percent, 0.2 percent higher than the council had requested, but it is “the exact amount our budget is increasing for existing salary and benefits,” Forcella said.

An increase of $124,000 in special education costs, as well as other new expenses, will be funded by cutting other areas of the budget, Forcella said.

Kevin Sweeney, chair of the School Board’s Finance Committee, and School Board Chairman George Entwistle will write to the Town ouncil requesting it consider this proposal and approve an amount slightly larger than the council had originally recommended.

Sweeney is uncertain of the possible outcome. “I’m not going to speculate on the council,” he said.

He expressed concern about the availability of sports to high school freshman, who are too old for Little League or Casco Bay Hockey, but are now too young to participate in school-sponsored athletics.

Sweeney is not optimistic going forward. “I don’t think it looks any better next year,” he said. He said he expects cuts in the future to be like the cuts this year, small in size and affecting a wide range of school functions.

Town Council Finance Committee Chair Jack Roberts said he was “disappointed” to hear that the schools wanted additional money. He said he was aware the council would be receiving a letter from the School Board, but said he had neither received the letter nor spoken to any of his fellow councilors about their reaction.

The total expenditure in the budget is officially still $15,038,234 until the Town Council takes action, according to school Business Manager Pauline Aportria, but the proposed cuts would take the amount down to $14,947,234.

To cover the school’s original request would mean an increase of 91 cents per thousand on the tax rate. With the additional cuts requested by the council, it would be 86 cents.

At the budget meeting between the council and the School Board April 29, Roberts had pointed out the overall tax rate increase was projected to be 94 cents, and asked councilors if they wanted to permit an additional five cents for school funding, which would still keep the increase under $1 per thousand. Roberts found no takers then.