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Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 13, 2014
Brooksville school board
Parents, citizens voice concern over proposed budget

by Anne Berleant

The 2014-15 budget approved by the school board late in January received some community pushback when the board met on February 3. Despite an increase of 2.67 percent or $46,582, the $1,789,902 budget includes program, teacher and staff reductions.

The increase is mainly due to increased legal fees and teacher health insurance and retirement contributions

“I think it is a mistake to offset the large increases to the budget with cuts to the elementary school education,” parent Annie Silver said, reading from a prepared statement that also mentioned a $20,000 increase in high school tuition and $15,000 for a new school bus.

“Whereas the $30,000 of legal fees increases the budget by 2 percent, keeping the school adequately funded is an increase of only half a percent,” she continued.

However, the board cited a low enrollment and high teacher-student ratio as behind the budget cuts.

“It’s extraordinarily difficult,” said Chairman Charles Tarr after the meeting. “We’re down to 55 kids [with] 23 adults in the building.”

Not everyone thinks declining enrollment should be met with declining programs, however.

“The school board’s response to low enrollment seem[s] to be exacerbating the problem rather than solving [it],” resident and state Representative Ralph Chapman, who attended the meeting, wrote in a recent email. “I tried to make the point that cutting programming from the budget would make it less likely that Brooksville Elementary School would be attractive to new families moving into the area and to those already here that may choose to explore other (private or homeschool) options.”

Currently, 13 Brooksville children attend Bay School and approximately four are home schooled.

Two special education ed. tech. position cuts were made because the board was “assured by the [Union 93] special education director” that they weren’t necessary, said Tarr.

“[The board] doesn’t put into context these changes,” said Jessica Booth, by telephone after the meeting. Booth attended the board meeting as a community member and parent. “There’s important stakeholders: parents, teachers, administrators, kids, the community. We need to create an opportunity for conversation.”

Former board member and high school parent Jen Chase was concerned over the elimination of the grade 7/8 English and social studies teaching position.

That 60-percent position, held by first year teacher Brian Adams, was cut, with plans to have a yet-to-be-hired teaching principal take over those classes.

“They’re putting that position of social studies and English on the principal [position] platter,” said Chase. “That’s a lot of work.”

The 40-percent French program remains in the budget. However, the school could not fill that position before combining it with the 60-percent 7/8 grade position this year.

Tarr said he was “little bit disappointed” in the reaction.

“We’ve done this budget very transparently,” he said. “It’s a wonderful school and we’re trying to save it.”

Residents have the opportunity to present specific motions to amend the proposed budget at town meeting.

“There’ll be a happy medium somewhere in the middle,” said Hurvitt.

Upcoming meetings:

Brooksville School Board: Monday, March 3, 5 p.m., school.

Town meeting: elections on March 3, warrant articles on March 4, town office.