Dollars and sense

School Board to hear public budget input Thursday

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The Moffat County School District Board of Education will hear public input regarding possible budget cuts and reductions at its meeting Thursday.

The board will hear from representatives presenting their rationale for preserving particular programs or staff at its afternoon work session. Budget discussions are slated to begin at 4:05 p.m.

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Specific programs and staff to be addressed are: class size and aide reduction, librarian reduction, Maybell School closure, Moffat County High School pool closure and extracurricular activity reductions.

With an anticipated packed house at Thursday's meeting, district Superintendent Pete Bergmann said he expects emotions to run high.

"People are going to be anxious," Bergmann said. "It's going to be somewhat solemn in accepting that we have to do some of these things in order to reduce some of our expenditures."

As the lowest-funded district per pupil in the state, Moffat County administrators have been evaluating ways to cut expenditures and increase revenue.

In addition to lobbying the state government for additional funding, district administrators and the school board have been considering about 2 percent in cuts and reductions for next school year's budget.

The list of possibilities totals about $1.4 million. Two percent of the 2007-08 budget is about $800,000.

Even if state funding comes through for next year, Bergmann said the board will still need to make cuts and reductions to close the widening gap between expenditures and revenue.

"The board is in a position where it needs to make tough choices," Bergmann said. "There are no good choices."

The board will discuss proposed cuts and reductions Thursday, extending discussion at 6:45 p.m. on the evening agenda if necessary.

To guide the board's decisions, Bergmann has reminded members to consider which programs and staff are closest to the district's mission -- providing high student achievement for all students in a safe, quality learning environment.

Bergmann said the public's input may help the board make decisions about cuts and reductions. He understands that community discussion may get heated because of students,' parents' and staff's passion for district's programs.

"It's going to be emotional because, again, the board wouldn't have these programs if they didn't think they contributed to the success of the students of Moffat County," Bergmann said. "So we're going to follow our reduction goals and have the least amount of impact on our mission and vision, knowing that we have to move forward."

At Thursday's meeting, the board also will hear an update on facility improvements, hear second readings on the sick leave and personal leave buy back policies and adjourn to closed, or executive, session for negotiations and personnel discussions.

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