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School budget is worst-case scenario; District plans cuts because of state figures.

Byline: George Barnes

GARDNER - Although state figures are far from being final and could improve significantly, the Gardner School District's 2008 budget reflects the worst that could happen with state aid.

"The outlook this year is not great," Finance Subcommittee Chairman David Curran told other members of the School Committee at a meeting last night.

Mr. Curran said the projected increase in state aid based on Gov. Deval L. Patrick's proposed state budget will not cover increased costs for items such as medical insurance, heating and other utility costs, and negotiated staff salary increases.

At a May 14 budget hearing, the district will roll out a proposed $24.8 million budget, about $340,000 more than this year's budget, but, factoring in the fixed costs, much less than would be needed to keep services the same.

"For level services, we would need $1,115,000 more than we got from the state," Superintendent of School Carol Daring said.

The governor's budget shows an increase of $383,000 in state aid to the district. Under the Legislature's budget proposal, the figures would be about the same.

Mr. Curran said the figures could change by the time a state budget is enacted, but without any solid figures, the School Department is planning for the worst.

The proposed reduction of nine positions would mostly involve retirees not being replaced and employees being shifted to other jobs to fill those vacancies. Mr. Curran said there is a possibility that one nursing position could be lost, but that has not been decided.

Another budget cut would involve not making repairs to buildings other than routine maintenance.

School Committee Vice Chairman David Boudreau asked that before the public hearing, the committee be provided with a list of positions that would be eliminated and information on the effect the cuts would have on student services, including the effect on class sizes.

"Personally, I don't have a fuzzy feeling on some of these areas to be cut," he said. "I think there are other areas that can be cut first."

Mr. Curran said the School Committee expects to meet one more time before its May meeting to complete its work on the budget. He urged other members of the committee to attend the meeting.

The School Committee also voted last night to approve a Gardner High School senior class field trip to New York City, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., from April 24 to 26.

The committee also accepted a donation of 18 computer monitors from Educational International Consultants of Gardner, and agreed to the sale of a 1991 Ford F250 pickup truck owned by the district that was declared surplus.

NAME: GARDNER SCHOOL COMMITTEE
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 10, 2007
Words:447
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