Tough choices ahead for school district

Chuck Kajer, Managing Editor

Heads were shaking silently during the New Prague Area School Board meeting Monday, March 9. A packed board room listened as Superintendent Craig Menozzi presented a list of 40 budget adjustments for the 2009-10 school year. The adjustments, a combination of cuts, fee increases and reallocation of funds totaling more than $1 million, are necessary to make up for a shortage in funding for the coming year.

Over the last few years the board has worked hard to rein in spending and establish a stable budget that includes a positive fund balance. But as the explosive growth of the last few years has slowed down and state funding has remained stable, it has not been easy. Just last spring the board made some mid-term adjustments to the budget to make up for lower-than-expected revenues. Another round of cuts followed for the current year's budget. Now this.

Menozzi and Dan Pyan, the district's finance director, both cautioned the board that barring a sizable increase in state funding - doubtful considering the financial status of the state - they would need to go through the process all over again next year.

Menozzi concluded by saying the cuts were a good news - bad news situation, with the good news being that the board was able to identify reductions, and the bad news was that the board had to make reductions.

It is unlikely that these board members ran for office with the intention of making large cuts in school spending. But given the reality of today's economy, that is what they were forced to do.

It was also pointed out that New Prague is lucky. Compared to many other districts New Prague is on solid financial footing. Other districts are looking at much bigger cuts.

There is no doubt the proposals are painful, but there is also no doubt such adjustments are necessary. The board and administration had a tough challenge. Let's hope the challenges get easier in the coming year.

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