Falmouth School Board, expecting budget cuts, asks public to rate programs

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FALMOUTH — With the looming possibility of more state funding reductions and a further curtailment that would squeeze the pared-down school budget, the School Board will begin a series of dialogs with the public to determine what programs and activities are most important to the community.

“Our challenge is how to find ways to continue to move our high-performing district forward and we hope to promote a transparent process as we begin the review process,” Superintendent of Schools Barbara Powers said.

State funding was reduced by $1.08 million in the current budget year, although $790,000 in federal economic stimulus money narrowed the gap to $290,000. For the 2010-2011 budget, the School Department anticipates a state funding reduction of at least last year’s amount and further curtailment of at least $475,000 during the current school year.

The Monday evening workshops will focus on essential questions and will include a presentation by staff and an opportunity for members of the public to speak, followed by School Board members discussing their impressions and possible next steps, Powers said. The meetings will not include votes.

“I will ask that speakers not only address their value system, but their response to funding proposals,” Powers said.

The questions the board has chosen originated from School Board Leadership Council workshops.

The first session, scheduled for Nov. 2, will ask schools, parents and students to assign values to all athletic and co-curricular activities and to brainstorm funding options to cover them. The Dec. 7 workshop will ask residents to consider the policy governing class size, which mandates for educational programming should drive the budget and how student programs should be prioritized. The Jan. 4, 2010, agenda will expand on the December topic, asking attendees to place a value on field trip experiences and examining recommendations from the middle school’s ad hoc committee on overnight field trips.

“We’re trying to have a lot of information before that final March meeting when we’re going to be identifying budget priorities,” Powers said.

Information about the budget process and the workshops is available on the Falmouth schools Web site, falmouthschools.org.

All meetings will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held in the Falmouth High School music room.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.