RSU 4 may cut sports, extracurricular activities to trim budget

WALES — When RSU 4 school directors meet in two weeks to take another crack at the 2013-14 budget, cutting all sports and extracurricular activity may be on the table, according to Superintendent Jim Hodgkin.

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Sun Journal File Photo

Oak Hill's Cody Collingwood reaches for the ball on a pass play in an October football game with Maranacook in Wales. The school board is going to consider cutting all sports and extracurricular activities as a way to trim the 2013-2014 budget.

"All of them," Hodgkin said Thursday. "Football, basketball, drama. For the entire district. We know we can't make any more cuts to the classrooms."

Residents defeated the proposed $17.69 million budget, a roughly 0.5 percent increase, in a vote Tuesday.

They defeated the first budget in early June. The second effort included $55,000 in savings from salaries and renegotiated contracts and $175,000 in increased state aid. It passed in Litchfield but was turned back in Sabattus and Wales.

At issue is the anticipated property tax increase. Cutting extracurriculars would save an estimated $200,000 to $300,000, Hodgkin said.

Due to new costs passed along from the state and no reserve to tap into, the board would need to cut $700,000 to stave off any tax impact.

"(Directors) have two weeks to get out in their communities to find out what we can do to put together a budget that will pass," he said. "They're the representatives of the community so they need to find out what's going on."

The board will take up new budget talks and could even adopt a new budget on July 31 at 6:30 p.m. at Oak Hill High School.

Hodgkin said he's heard two other ideas floated: eliminating iPads for grades kindergarten to three and cutting administration.

He pointed out that any laid-off staff would still receive their next three months of pay and that administrators are working to try to save the district money.

Partially cutting iPads — supplying them to two grades instead of four — would save $43,000 to $45,000 and could potentially be returned to next year's budget.

Cutting extracurriculars would be harder to restore.

"I think you need to look at things you think you can live without for a period of time, two or three years, maybe forever," Hodgkin said. "We could probably eliminate all co-curricular activities for a year; we're going to be in no better shape to pay for it a year from now than we are now."

A new school budget has to be voted on by Aug. 30.

It's not the only local district wrestling to pass a budget before the start of the new school year. A second school budget referendum will be held Tuesday in Auburn after voters rejected the first proposal last month. That new budget has dropped from 6.9 percent higher than the year before to 4.9 percent higher.

kskelton@sunjournal.com

Staff writer Bonnie Washuk contributed to this report.

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Comments

JoIke

This is a joke right??? Supplying iPads for kindergarten to grade three is certainly something that should be eliminated...now computers aren't good enough?? I can't afford an iPad for myself so I don't think young children should get their hands on them. They aren't responsible enough to take care of them, and the superintendent should have a salary cut for sure. I don't see him working very much and earning the salary he makes. It's also funny how they throw in the stopping the sports program as a way to get the people fired up, but honestly, the taxes in these small towns is way higher than it should be for what is provided...which is nothing..can't even get our road plowed in the winter, so nix to the budget...

Amedeo Lauria's picture

I would invite members of RSU #4 community to attend the

meeting on July 31st at 6:30 p.m. at Oak Hill High School.

I would like to personally thank those in Sabattus who sent me their concerns, comments and suggestions and I will certainly pass them on to the rest of the board when we next meet.

All ideas are welcome.

Telepresence

Amedeo,
I have no kids in school here (never have, never will), but I am saddened to see education funding cut and cut and cut not only to the bone, but INTO the bone. A diverse and well rounded education is of utmost importance, and the attitude of those who believe that all kids need is the three Rs to get through school is incredibly short-sighted and only validates the Governors erroneous contention that Maine graduates are laughed at by out of state colleges. (I don't know what your stance is on that, but this is my own feeling). Cutting out extracurriculars and sports will damage these kids' sense of pride in their schools and will further dissociate them from any wish to be a part of the educational system.

That said, a question for the Board: have you considered one of the overlooked technology tools in all of the RSU 4 schools?
Four years ago, as part of the MSAD52 RUS grant, I installed Cisco Telepresence (generically called "Tandbergs", much to Cisco's annoyance) in the high school, both middle schools, and the two primary schools. If you are not familiar with the technology, these are video teleconferencing units that can be used for jointly teaching classrooms in different schools, virtual field trips (which can be found at cilc.org), even holding meetings without collecting everyone in one room. In addition to these units, each school received a desktop videophone which can also be used to decentralize meetings. I know these devices are being used in some capacity (I have not spoken to Norma Jan about it since installing them, but I've received questions about them that indicate they were not simply put in a closet after I left), but I wonder if anyone has made the Board aware of these devices and given them pause to consider how their use may assist in budget decisions?

Over the last ten years or so, my former and current employers, in conjunction with UMaine's MSLN and the USDA RUS grant program, have installed over 500 of these units in an effort to get every school in the state connected via telepresence. Sadly, my colleagues and I have seen far too many of these schools just put them into closets after we leave because they claim no one knows what to do with them (even though we SHOW them). Some districts, on the other hand, have used them to great effect, perhaps none more so than MSAD54 (Skowhegan/Norridgewock), which even have some linked to their interactive white boards. While I do make part of my living installing these units for the currently active grants, I would be happy to volunteer some of my time with my home district to make sure they are up to date and to help find ways to make them even more helpful in the classroom.

Tobey Johnson's picture

well.......

You could start and cut the superintendent and his near $100K salary. Why does an RSU as small as 4 is needs a full time superintendent? Out this way, Wales, Sabattus, Litchfield, Greene, Leeds, Monmouth could all benefit from sharing one. What you'll find that will probably happen, Sabattus will be fed up, want to join up with Lisbon, Litchfield will find someone to run with and Monmouth should just consume Wales as its own.

Funny thing about this story, (not funny as ha ha ha) Litchfield and Sabattus really didn't care about Wales, when it was time to cut one of the school buildings, no hesitation in cutting Wales, now tiny little Wales has a little control and could be the tie breaker in Litchfield vs Sabattus.

Another thing, ipads for free? First laptops now ipads......for free.....and we wonder why budgets are so hard to approve and why people are complaining. If I needed something for school, my parents had to buy it. Pencils, paper, pens, folders, locks, sneakers, whatever, it was expected that the parents were responsible for these items; I know not everyone can afford lap tops or ipads, hell, I don't have an ipad for myself, but why should I have to buy an ipad for someone else's kid to mistreat and use. Offer a deal, a group discount, a voucher, I'm sure some business could do this as a tax break (and some good press) and everyone would be happy. I'd hate to see sports, drama, and any of the other programs cut for the kids because of this need for added technology luxuries.

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