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Elizabeth Forward eyes widespread budget cuts

| Thursday, June 17, 2010

When the Elizabeth Forward School Board meets next week, it could consolidate some middle school sports programs and eliminate financial support for an evening elementary school-age basketball program.

At yesterday's meeting, the board wrestled with the idea of consolidating the seventh and eighth grade football teams into one middle school team and doing the same with the seventh and eight grade boys' and girls' basketball teams.

In addition, Superintendent Dr. Bart Rocco said other possible cuts are being eyed, including:

• An evening recreational basketball program for elementary students.

• An evening indoor track club for high school students.

• A foreign language class in middle school.

• An RTI (response to intervention) program on the elementary level.

• Some teachers and teachers' aides.

All of the potential changes are being discussed in an effort by the board to come up with a balanced budget for the 2010-11 school year.

The board has until June 30 to produce a balanced budget.

In March, EF introduced a tentative budget that called for expenditures totaling $35,816,320, Rocco said.

That budget includes an approximate $2 million shortfall that directors are trying to eliminate.

"The board is trying to come up with a balanced budget without raising taxes," Rocco said. "Taxes can be raised by 0.96 percent, but the proposed budget does not call for a tax hike."

If the district raises the millage by 0.96 percent, it would generate approximately $600,000.

The district's current millage is 23.51, just over the average for districts in Allegheny County, Rocco said.

Several residents at Wednesday's meeting were opposed to consolidating athletic programs on the middle school level.

Board member Charles Bakewell said the board has yet to make a final decision on the budget, which means no decision has been made on any of the changes being discussed.

Bakewell said school board always looks at ways to save money when faced with tough budget decisions.

"Really, I think the culprit in this is the state, which hasn't come through with the monies we are anticipating," Bakewell said. "The state doesn't have a budget yet and that's the problem here."

The board is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday.

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