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Huron Schools face $500K in cuts

Alissa Widman Neese • Apr 17, 2013 at 5:54 PM

The Huron school board is weeks away from approving at least $500,000 in cuts for the next two years.

Board members were poised to approve the cuts Tuesday night, according to their meeting agenda, but they ultimately took no action despite spending most of the meeting in private, effectively shutting out community members from the discussion.

The board spent three hours in two closed-door sessions.

The meeting kicked off with a lengthy session about modifying the length of a student’s expulsion. The board approved the modification, then entered a second session to discuss the cuts.

More than 40 people attended the meeting, but only a handful remained by the time board members finally returned from their closed session at about 11:40 p.m. to say they would take no action.

The reductions will likely be approved at the May 21 meeting, board president Scott Slocum said.

“We’ve met several times about this and each time there’s a new element we haven’t considered yet,” Slocum said. “This is very serious. When we do it, we want to make sure we’re doing it right.”

The school district is facing a deficit of about $1.3 million in the current year, with a budget of about $15 million.

The cuts are needed to keep the district stable until 2015, and the board is considering all options, treasurer Mike Weis said.  

“Administrators, classified staff, teachers, supplies, we’re looking at it all,” Weis said. “It sounds simple, but it’s complex. There are some tough decisions we need to make.”

Tuesday's meeting was the board’s first since voting 3-2 to fire former superintendent Fred Fox, whose suspension, investigation and related lawsuits have already cost the district about $140,000. Fox recently appealed his termination and he plans to file at least three new lawsuits, which could also prove costly for Huron Schools.

Two community members typically vocal on the issue voiced concerns again at Tuesday's meeting. Chris Wechter questioned the accuracy of the Fox investigation’s cost, while Sherry Catri targeted what she called board member John Caporini’s “unprofessional behavior” at last month’s meeting.

Slocum suggested Catri and Caporini meet in private to discuss the issue in a more appropriate environment.

“As with all of our employees, he has a right to defend himself,” Slocum said. “We can address this civilly one-on-one if you’re only going to direct specific criticisms at him.”

Also Tuesday, the board voted 4-1 to approve a special tax abatement for News-2-You, a Huron company. Board member Tim Sowecke was opposed to the abatement.

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