Students, parents voice concerns over budget cuts

WARRENSBURG - Local high school students, parents and teachers showed up in force Monday night to express concerns over the Warrensburg Central School District budget, which calls for cutting 12 employees and eliminating Junior Varsity sports and cheerleading.

Monday, March 14, the Warrensburg Central Board of Education and school administrators presented a 2010-11 budget that calls for a 3.5 percent reduction in spending, but an estimated 2.05 percent increase in local property taxes. That sum would amount to $42 per family living in a $150,000 home, Superintendent of Schools Tim Lawson said.

While parents of pupils and students themselves generally voiced impassioned pleas to keep programs and personnel intact, several taxpayers said they supported the cuts, or wanted further reductions.

The draft budget, prepared by school administrators in the face of a projected $1.26 million cut in State Aid for WCS, calls for spending $18.37 million in 2011-12.

One student after another pleaded for the board to retain Junior Varsity sports programs, citing that they offer vital experience in teamwork, and nurture confidence and leadership skills.

"Our JV sports program helps us learn to set and achieve goals," high schooler Aineen Callahan said. Students making such pleas included Kerrigan Roth and Cregan Callahan. Applause and cheers punctuated the students remarks.

Board member Richlene Morey proposed to keep the 2011-12 tax rate capped at a zero percent increase, adopt the suggested cuts, and take the $160,000 or so needed to retain a flat tax rate out of district reserve funds. The administrators' proposal already calls for $649,000 to be drawn from reserve funds.

Citizens Budget Advisory Committee member Mike Curry, while voicing support for such a zero-increase budget, advocated retaining JV sports, citing their high participation rate and positive influence on character development. He suggested that all coaches take a one-third cut in their coaching stipends - paid on top of their salaries - to save the JV programs.

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