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School board cuts $2 million from budget

Alissa Widman Neese • Jun 13, 2013 at 5:45 PM

The topic was fitting for the packed Perkins High School auditorium, where more than 200 people cheered on their side of a contentious levy debate with applause and praise.

Reductions approved Wednesday totaled about $2 million, a result of a failed May levy and state funding cuts, board members said.

Pay-to-participate fees for high school students increased to $730 per sport for the upcoming school year, up from $150 approved in April. Costs for dual enrollment classes, clubs and music activities also increased substantially for high school and middle school students.

“I don’t approve of this, and I don’t think you guys understand,” a mother shouted from the back of the crowded auditorium. “I want my son’s senior year to be a good one, not ‘mom and dad couldn’t pay for me to play my sports.’”

Board president Matt Koisor told parents no board members think the cuts are a good idea, however, they do recognize their necessity.

“Unfortunately we only have a certain amount of money to balance our budget,” Koisor said. “None of these cuts are cuts we want to make.”

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If township voters approve the district’s August levy, the reductions could be reversed and pay-to-participate fees will return to normal, superintendent Jim Gunner said. The district is proposing a 10-year, 6.73-mill levy, nearly 2 mills larger than its May proposal.

Before Wednesday’s cuts, Perkins Schools was projecting a $2.3 million deficit for the upcoming school year, with a budget of about $21 million, according to its most recent five-year financial forecast. It was set to spend all its reserve cash by 2015.

In early April, board members approved two rounds of permanent cuts totaling $12 million for the next four years. 

In addition to sports fees, several parents also voiced concerns Wednesday about cuts to music and art programming.

Conversation was calm, but tense, until parent Jason Dulaney commanded attention with an objective perspective. He criticized the board’s ineffective communication strategies, but also reprimanded voters for going to the polls without proper knowledge of the issues.

An angry “no” vote doesn’t punish board members or administrators — it only punishes students, said Dulaney, a levy supporter.

“I don’t want you to vote ‘yes’ and I don’t want you to vote ‘no,’” he said. “I just want you to vote informed.”

Levy committee members, many district parents, remained in the auditorium after the meeting to recruit supporters for their cause. They will kick off their campaign with a meeting 7 p.m. Monday in the Perkins High School cafeteria.

Township voters haven’t approved an emergency operating levy for the district since 2000.

Perkins Schools cuts approved

•Furry Elementary School: 3 teachers (art, music, physical education)

•Meadowlawn Intermediate School: 5 teachers (art, music, computer, gifted, physical education)

•Briar Middle School: 2 teachers (computer, music), 1 guidance counselor

•Perkins High School: 2 teachers (health, Chinese)

•District Office: 1 communications director, 1 EMIS secretary, full pay-to-participate fees

TOTAL SAVINGS: About $2 million for upcoming school year

Pay-to-participate fee amounts approved

•High school athletics: $730 per sport

•High school extracurricular clubs: $150 per club

•High school band or choir: $220 per music participation

•Middle school athletics: $185 per sport

•Middle school clubs: $150 per club

•High school dual enrollment classes: $300 per class per semester

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