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April 03. 2013 10:46PM

Hudson forced to cut school spending

HUDSON - School officials have taken the first steps to trim the 2014 school budget down to meet the $47.2 million default budget put in place by voters.

The proposed fiscal year 2013-14 budget that appeared on the March ballot was rejected, leaving administrators to cut about $600,000 in spending to reach default budget levels. All articles on the school district ballot, including union contract agreements, were defeated.

The School Board on Monday reviewed a list of items that could potentially be cut. The list was compiled and prioritized by school principals and presented by Superintendent Bryan Lane.

At the start of the presentation, Business Administrator Karen Burnell said a $500,000 gap existed between the failed budget and the default budget. The district also is down $100,000 in federal funding, widening the gap to about $600,000.

Potential cuts to close the gap include funding for freshman sports, Studio 19, the Key Club, and the Color Guard at Alvirne High School, as well as the LEGO League, intramural sports and Ski Club at the elementary and middle schools.

"It's heartbreaking," said Laura Bisson, chairman of the School Board, on Wednesday.

Hudson has the second-lowest per pupil spending in the state, making additional cuts more difficult, Bisson said.

"It's just so difficult because we need to do more with less," Bisson said.

Potential reductions put forward included not filling two positions being vacated by retiring teachers and funding the school community liaison position for $1. The dollar amount keeps open the possibility of reinstating the position later, Lane said.

Staff cuts would be a last resort, according to Bisson.

The board wants to make decisions that will have the least negative impact, Bisson said. Members have already decided to return $114,000 to the budget for math textbooks for grades three through five. The item was cut as a new program when the default budget took effect.

"We've already committed that we will not sacrifice that," Bisson said.

Whether the reductions effect educational programs or extracurricular activities, it is still part of the student's educational experience, Bisson said.

Adding to the frustration is the number of people who told Bisson they would have voted if they had known this would happen, she said. About 3,200 of the town's roughly 16,000 registered voters cast ballots in March.

Board member Patty Langlais echoed Bisson's frustration Wednesday. There were no large ticket items in the budget to cut, Langlais said.

"We're cutting programs for the students," Langlais said. "It truly is heartbreaking for me, and it's frustrating."

The clubs and extracurricular activities are what keeps a lot of the students coming to school every day and gets them to participate, Langlais. The stipends staff receive for working with the clubs helps them to stay in town, Langlais said.

Langlais, who has fought to bring a lot of the programs into existence, worries about the future.

"Once you take something away, it's nearly impossible to get it back," Langlais said.

A workshop meeting has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on April 29 at the Hills Memorial Library to finalize the default budget.

jhanson@newstote.com


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