The West York Area school board heard some of the first concerns from the public Tuesday about the budget woes the district faces, including some about cutting programs such as the ninth-grade football team.
At the beginning of the meeting Superintendent Emilie Lonardi and business manager George Fike presented the proposed preliminary budget that will be voted on in February. The budget for the 2014-15 school year has an anticipated deficit of about $1.6 million, despite furloughs of 20 professional staff and 10 support staff members.
Fike said the budgetary concerns will continue in the future, because of rising costs for retirement and special education without rising revenues from taxes or other sources.
"We're going to have to be very cognizant of our budgeting over the next several years," Fike said.
Cutting team: Lonardi said an overview of future program cuts as a result of the "austere" budget picture will occur at board meetings scheduled in February. Among those cuts will be the ninth-grade football team, which Lonardi said came as a cost-saving recommendation from head football coach Ron Miller.
Lonardi said she didn't have the numbers Tuesday for how much cutting the team would save the district. But she said the ninth-grade players will be allowed to play for the junior varsity team, so they won't lose the opportunity to compete.
Lonardi said the district is also asking sports programs to cut one paid coaching position if a team has more than two paid positions. Lonardi said among others, track, football and baseball will be asked to eliminate one paid position. Lonardi said it will be up to the head coach of each of those teams to decide how to save that money: Assistant coaches could split the paycheck to keep the same number of coaches, a paid coach could volunteer or the team could adapt to one less coach for the team.
Public reaction: Bruce Weaver of West Manchester Township said during the public comment section he has two daughters, a freshman in college and a sophomore in the high school. Weaver said both have received a quality education in the district. Weaver said he also has a son in fourth grade in the district. "I'm concerned about what the future looks like for him," Weaver said.
Weaver said the current time frame might not be the best for a renovation project, in light of so many staff and program cuts. "The impact is going from the classroom out on to the playing field," Weaver said after the meeting.
Another parent, Kevin Mikula, said he asked his children which teachers they would like to see stay if the furloughs go through. Mikula then listed more than 15 names his children rattled off.
"This is not just jobs," Mikula said. "These are families for my children."
Another commenter, Christine Cooper, said she is one of the part-time elementary aides that will be laid off at the end of the year.
"I am one of the faces of the furlough," Cooper said.
Cooper said the support for students learning the basics in education was already at "bare bones" levels this year, and said the cuts to the aides position will have a direct effect on students in the district.
Response: Board President Rodney Drawbaugh said the board is "acutely aware" real people are affected by the cuts, and said the board is in a difficult place of being elected to make the tough decisions.
"If we had our druthers we wouldn't be cutting anyone," Drawbaugh said.
Lonardi said after the meeting the board and administration are sympathetic to the comments on Tuesday.
"Everyone agrees with them," she said.
But Lonardi said even if the board decided to do nothing with the buildings, the teachers would still be furloughed. The money for the renovation project is bond money, which means it can't be used for anything except for the buildings. The board decided to maintain the buildings, despite the "odd" time that the bonds came up for renewal.
"It cannot be used to save teachers," Lonardi said.
The teacher furloughs and program cuts will be discussed in the 6:30 p.m. work session Tuesday, Feb. 11, in the district administration building, 2605 W. Market St. in York.
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.