Salem board cuts staff and programs to make ends meet

The school board decided not to ask voters to approve an additional levy.



SALEM — The city school board cut programs and staff to cope with a projected $880,000 deficit.

However, the school district will continue to carry a debt through the 2007-08 school year.

Gone are two full-time arts positions, two full-time music positions, one English position, and French language instruction. Some 22 supplemental contracts, such as assistant coaches and club advisers, were not funded. The district’s seven custodians will be cut to part time.

Using a laptop computer during Monday’s meeting to tally the cuts, outgoing Superintendent Stephen Larcomb announced the board’s cuts totaled $603,000.

That was enough, he said, to tide the district over through the next year with a balance of about $200,000 in its general fund.

However, the district will still owe about $400,000 in its insurance fund. That can be reduced later, according to Larcomb and Treasurer Jill Rowe.

The district’s financial woes stemmed from the district carrying over $400,000 in medical bills for years in a consortium of schools. When that consortium folded, the district had to begin paying 35 percent interest on the outstanding amount to the new consortium to make up for the years it didn’t pay.

Rowe told the board that the other districts in the new consortium are paying only 2 percent interest.

Under state law, districts can’t run in the red but Larcomb and Rowe said they legally can carry insurance debt.

The board members voted Monday not to go back to voters for another 4.3-mill levy to solve the financial crunch.

The board did vote to put a 2-mill levy renewal on the November ballot that brings in about $424,000 a year.

In other business, Tony Maroni, who said he is the pastor of Grace Pentecostal Church in Salem, said he is interested in buying the closed Prospect School if the price were low. He said he wanted to use it to provide programming for young children.

The school was closed as part of cuts made in 2006.

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