BR ups taxes

BY STACI WILSON

A one mill tax increase will hit taxpayers in theBlue Ridgeschool district in their upcoming tax notices. The tax increase is just one area where the board of education has attempted to whittle away at an over $1 million deficit in its 2012-13 budget.

The one mill increase will take the district back to its 2010-11 tax rate of 45.89 mills. The board reduced the millage in its 2011-12 budget.

The board adopted its preliminary budget for the 2012-13 school year in a 7-1 vote at Monday night’s meeting.

Board President Laurie Bonner cast the lone dissenting vote. Board member Cindy Gillespie was not present at the meeting.

The preliminary budget anticipates $16,775,295 in revenue with $16,710,015 in expenditures.

Although the board approached the teacher’s union about a wage freeze and foregoing stipends and credit reimbursements, Bonner reported the union declined.

Teacher’s agreed to a wage freeze during the 2011-12 budget and contract negotiations.

The preliminary budget will be open for public review for 30 days.

Bonner said, “This is not to say changes can’t be made (to the budget).”

The board must pass a final budget by July 1.

Board members discussed cuts in the technology spending; slashed coaches’ salaries and a one mill tax increase but it was a change to the middle and high school theater program that was questioned by students at the meeting.

The board’s solution to maintain the theater program despite across the board cuts to funding combines students grades six through 12 for two productions next year. Currently both the middle school theater and the high school theater departments each put on two productions each year.

Senior Kevin McCarey, who also serves as the student representative to the board, compared combining the two levels of theater students to adding junior high sports players to a varsity squad.

McCarey pointed out that an internet petition posted on change.org to keep the program in its current form garnered over 100 signatures within a few days.

Another student also involved in the school’s theater program, David Miller presented the board with a t-shirt that read: “We support BR Middle School Drama,” which reportedly also had about 100 signatures on it.

Board president Laurie Bonner advised the two to “get kids at the meeting to voice concerns.” She said 100 students at a meeting would more support than 100 signatures.

An audience member suggested fundraising for the program.

Bonner said, “There are all sorts of opportunities.”

Board members said the change in the theater program wouldn’t affect the younger students who could still be a part of the productions.

McCarey said the change was “basically the equivalent of cutting” middle schoolers from the theater program.

Board member Christina Whitney said the students could still participate in smaller roles and have something to build to.

But the change to the theater program wasn’t the only cut discussed by the board.

Whitney said the 25 percent cut to coaching salaries “is too much.”

Board member Shane Rumage said he would rather see cuts made in sports rather than in the classroom.

Whitney added, “I’m not saying sports shouldn’t be touched. It’s just too much. I feel like we’re just slashing right now.”

The next board business meeting will be held Monday, June 4, at7:30 p.m.in the cafeteria.