Board of Finance Meeting on March 24 Discusses Budget Cuts

Constance Chien ’10
Features Editor

The March 24 Board of Finance meeting began at 6 p.m., a continuation of the preceding night’s meeting.

A nearly nine-hour long meeting, with discussion of the education budget lasting from approximately 8:10-2:47 p.m., the main topic of contention was the discussion of “painful” cuts to a “lean budget,” two phrases commonly heard throughout the meeting.

Notable cuts include a $1 million cut to the education budget proposed by the Board of Education, which had allowed for a 2.13% increase from the 2009-10 budget.  In addition, a $100,000 cut to the library budget, which, according to a library official, may cause the library to close on 39 of 49 Sundays, beginning in July.  Another notable cut includes a total $1.4 million cut to the overall public works budget.

Members of the Board of Finance discussed a concern with the cost of medical insurance and the pension plan, factors which had led them to necessitate a “lean budget” this year.

Board of Finance member Kenneth Wirfel discussed the idea that there exists a “flawed business model” in the budgeting of the education system.

“You will come to us next year with a greater increase,” Wirfel said. He continued to state that the situation will worsen.

Wirfel drew comparisons to the parochial school system, in which there exists a lower salary rate, claiming that there exists no correlation between salaries and success in terms of achievement. Wirfel seconded board member Brian Stern’s proposal that the Board of Education’s proposed increase of the budget to $2.0 million be reduced to $800,000.

Stern’s contextual discussion included the fact that education in current years has been funded at twice the rate of inflation. Stern also expressed concern with a possible tax increase, stating that if the lowering of the proposed increase did not happen, the tax rate would increase to double digits.

However, it was board member Allyson Stollenwerck’s motion to cut the proposed increase to the education budget by $1 million that had passed. Stollenwerck expressed solidarity with the education system due to her children, and she suggested that the cuts that would not adversely affect the quality of education could perhaps be made. The motion was seconded by board chairman Helen Garten. Eventually, all four Democrats voted in favor of the motion, while all three Republicans opposed the motion.

Restoration of funds will be discussed at the board’s April 7 meeting.