Cape schools OK budget cut of $1.2 million

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

With bleak predictions about decreased services and increased workload, Cape Girardeau school officials on Monday approved $1.2 million in budget cuts, but voted down the elimination of several positions.

After more than a month of deliberation, school board members voted in favor of 47 of superintendent Mark Bowles' 52 recommendations, including firing five teachers and charging a $40 participation fee for student activities.

The approved cuts still leave the district with a $1 million deficit, but school officials say the amount eliminated should be enough to help the district "ride out the storm."

Several recommendations that had attracted public controversy, including the elimination of a band instructor and administrative assistants at the junior high and middle school, did not go through.

The board also voted against the elimination of two administrative positions -- director of personnel at the central office and an assistant principal at Central High School.

Bowles' recommendations were derived from 160 suggestions made by a 109-member budget task force that met for two weeks in October and November to review the district's finances and prioritize potential cuts.

Over the past two weeks, board members discussed the situation and came to a consensus on 47 of the recommendations, which were packaged into one motion and approved at Monday's meeting.

"Each of these decisions is being made on an individual basis, and I hope people will remember that," said board member Dr. Steven Trautwein.

Bowles withdrew three of his original recommendations before the board meeting, including the firing of a band instructor and a teacher at the Alternative Education Center and the elimination of EPI pens for bee stings.

"There was a consensus that those recommendations were not right for this community," Bowles said.

The board could not reach unanimity on six of Bowles' recommendations -- the elimination of an administrative assistant at the junior high and middles school, the elimination of an administrative assistant at the high school, the reduction of a high school assistant principal, the reduction of a part-time personnel director, reducing the stipend for the junior high athletic director and a salary freeze.

With the exception of the salary freeze, each of those recommendations was defeated.

There was considerable discussion about the elimination of an assistant principal at Central High School. Currently, five administrators are there, although state guidelines only require three.

"From what we've heard, teachers and administrators in that building feel it would harm discipline and safety there," said board member Dr. Martha Zlokovich. "I cannot vote in favor of it because of that."

Board member Charlie Haubold disagreed, saying that the decision did not follow the precedent of relying on state guidelines to make cuts.

"We said those were the guidelines we were using, so how can we use it at one school and not others," Haubold questioned.

335-6611, extension 128

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