Question: First off our Athletic Director was assigned to the forum group I was assigned to. The Athletic Director in my opinion was a key player to be in attendance, but he only attended the meeting with his assigned group for approximately 10 minutes and in that 10 minutes he appeared disinterested, throwing out a few areas where B-P could cut the athletics budget and then he left the meeting.
Answer: Board members and members of the leadership team participate in the forums in large part to listen and be available to taxpayers for conversation. In cases where BOE / leadership team members have more knowledge about a topic, they should naturally provide the other participants with this knowledge. However, the point of the round-table is to get a sense of what community members consider important and to give them a sense of what BOE/Leadership team members have on their minds.
I assure you the Athletic Director is very interested in the consequences of the athletics he directs being eliminated. Regarding the duration of his stay with your group, it’s likely that he wanted to have an opportunity to participate in more than one group. So he had to limit the time spent in each.
Question: Also assigned to my forum group was a B-P BOE member, and at one point during the discussion the BOE member stated very clearly that if it came down to an Athletics Program or laying off a teacher he could guarantee the BOE members would not vote to lay off a teacher to save athletics. This statement seemed so political in nature, and it did not seem like an appropriate statement for a BOE member to make.
Answer: It's surprising to hear that someone would guarantee what the whole BOE would do, particularly about a topic as multi-faceted as this one. Perhaps this is a misinterpretation of the conversation or the person who spoke was a bit hasty. We regret that this is the perception you took away from the discussion. Rest assured that very few things are set in stone where this budget is concerned. The board is well aware that the decisions taken in the next several years will be thoroughly scrutinized. A primary focus has been to find out what our constituents want and to demonstrate that we’re serious about delivering the best we can.
Question: Lastly Marco our District Business Administrator visited our group. Since the Athletic Director, during the 10 minutes he attended the meeting came up with about $5,000-$6,000 dollars where things could be saved in the Athletics Department, I wondered what would happen if the Athletics Department and all departments at B-P sat down, truly sharpened their pencils...what could they actually come up with for cost savings. I asked Marco about sharpening the pencils and he stated something to the effect that it will not work that way and if we end up with an $80,000 dollar shortfall in our budget then the Administration will look to cut a large ticket item.
Answer: This one may need a conversation to pick out the exact question. Pencils have been sharpened. Some substantial cuts have been made in the last several budgets. For instance: In the last few years, expenditures for clubs have been reduced from $75,000 to $25,000. There have been no equipment purchases for sports teams in four years. Scrimmages and games that require travel have been reduced or eliminated altogether; partially because of state mandate and partially because of district choice. Field trips must now be entirely funded by the students. We continue to investigate ways to reduce spending while maintaining worthwhile extracurricular programs. Now we are seriously considering the elimination of programs. We remain open to suggestions.
Question: This is discouraging because as tax payers we were ignorant last year, we agreed to last year's budget because we believed the B-P Administration and BOE were doing all which they could do.
Answer: Six community roundtables occurred last year and were publicized rather widely. All the information from the roundtables was made available on the website. The district has published numerous detailed budget documents and hosted a seminar which thoroughly explained a property tax bill and put the video on our website.
This district has made many efforts to increase the amount and quality of information conveyed - even winning state-wide recognition for our efforts.
Further explanation of the meaning behind "all which they could do" would be helpful. There is an innate conflict in this process: The desire to educate students to the highest level possible so that they can have greater competitive success after graduation is in direct conflict with the need to stop spending so much of our citizen’s money. Exacerbating this problem are the structural flaws and legal traps with which we must contend.
Therefore a balancing act is taking place each year. How much money can the school district demand from its residents? How can the school succeed in its fundamental mission if it cuts the very programs which make the mission possible? These are simultaneously moral and empirical questions. The answers for the empirical aspects are often determined by the actions of state agencies. For the answer to the moral aspects we seek guidance from our own consciences and those of our community members, like you.
In closing, I’d like to extend a thank you from the Board for taking the time to participate in the roundtable discussion. Furthermore we appreciate the sincere and thoughtful questions you raised. Having the participation of people such as you in this process is essential to us – interested citizens form the backbone of our constituency. Please consider this an invitation to attend all of the district’s functions and to ask more questions. It’s our hope that we’ve provided sufficient answers to these.
-answered by Ed Szumowski, Board of Education Vice President
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