"My concern is, if we take the increase down to zero, do we have to shut down our school because we didn't plan ahead?" she said, citing Superintendent Tim Lawson's earlier warning that drawing down the school's savings - as several board members had suggested - might leave the school district insolvent in two and a half years. An 8 percent tax increase was likely for 2012-13 due to increasing expenses, he and School Business Administrator Cynthia Turcotte predicted.
School Beth Callahan agreed with Danna about the negative consequences of further cuts, noting that the school district had kept the taxes flat over the past several years by cutting programs like Drivers Education, Ski Club, plus Young Scholars and other offerings for high-achieving students.
"In past years, we've already asked students to give up a lot," she said.
The school district had its state aid projection boosted by about $51,000 this week due to state legislative action. Several members of the school board sought to have that amount subtracted from the local tax levy, but school administrators balked at the idea, noting that state aid was fluid and the sum might be needed to balance out an unexpected shortfall.
Lawson argued to minimize spending from fund balance to assure money for contingencies and to soften the blow from future state aid reductions.
Turcotte estimated the district's current unrestricted fund balance now totals about $1.7 million, about $1 million more than the state's recommended cap of 4 percent of current total appropriations.
The endorsed budget restores the positions and programs proposed to be cut under a more austere budget under consideration last month. This prior budget eliminated Junior Varsity sports and JV coaching positions and all cheerleading squads, as well as retaining a middle-school technology instructor, a school psychologist, the greeter at the high school, a study hall monitor, and a remedial reading teacher.