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April 15, 2008     Cape Gazette
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April 15, 2008

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+ Ii CAPE - Tuesday, April 15 - Thursday, April 17, 2008 - 5 Cape budget crunch may mean tax hike, larger class size By Leah Hoenen Cape Gazette staff The state's financial trouble is expected to hit public education hard. Cape Henlopen School District estimates that if the state cuts the budget by 10 percent, it will result in the loss of 37 posi- tions and will likely result in local tax increase. The district would also see a reduced capacity to maintain buildings, purchase instructional materials and supplies, and even transport homeless students. The state's budget could out- pace its revenue by $200 million, said Cape Superintendent George Stone at the school board meeting Thursday, April 10. Stone said the state asked school districts to prepare a plan that would return as much as $100 million to the state "The state budget office is ask- ing districts to show what it would look like if they gave back 8 percent. SOme districts are doing a worst-case scenario and looking at 10 percent, like we did," said board member Gary Wray. State dollars are distributed to local school districts based on a formula that reflects student pop- ulation, known as a unit count. A 10 percent cut would reduce Cape's budget by 37 units. "At this time, we are saying 37 posi- tions as a rough estimate," said Stone. Those positions could be teachers, custodians, administra- tors or secretaries, said Stone. He said the district may try to reduce as many other positions as possi- ble to preserve teaching posi- tions. The state has given the district no directive yet on how much to cut back, Stone said, but school districts have very tittle lime to reacL 'q'he state must decide quicHy. We have a May 15 deadline to let people know if they are coming back or not," Stone said. May 15 is the deadline to initi- ate the district's seniority-based reduction-in-force (RIF) proce- dure. "It's all way up in the air," said Wray, as far as how much the dis- tricts will have to cut haeL Each district will likely look at the cuts differently, Sione said, but he foresees some districts losing hundreds of teachers. The position cuts win crip- ple the public education sys- tem, he said. "We tight- ened our belt last yeax," said Wray of the district's work WRAY to get its buag- et in the red by eliminating posi- tions funded entirely by local funds. "We've got money in reserve. Whatever the slate asks for us to give back it will be easier because of what we did last year - but it will be terrible. Districts all across the state are telling their teachers to take a look at the RIF list and see where they stand," he said. "We can deal with bumps in the road, but not classrooms without teachers," Stone said. If the district took a 10 percent cut in state funds, it would lose nearly $3.7 million. Reductions would be felt in salaries, minor capital improve- merits, transportation of homeless students, equalization funds and funds for nonsalary costs. The district has. reported it now has $3.8 million marked to go into long-range accounts. Stone said that is local money and the board has full discre- tionary control over its use. "If we're going to see a surplus in revenue every year, we could use that to assist the process," he said. Not counting funds for trans- portation and debt service, the dis- trict has a little more than $36.8 million in state funds for the cur- rent fiscal year. Contact Leah Hoenen at leah @ capegazette, com. 1007 Kings Hwy. Lewes, DE 19958 302.645.9891 800.477.7559 CL00,00I. over 25 years 4 tranSforming br00l visions into wedding dreams