Fairmont Area School board members are facing some tough choices. And they could get a lot more difficult.
The school board this week made clear that it wants administrators to create a prioritized list of all non-required classes and services, along with their costs and student participation. The board is eyeing $750,000 in budget cuts, given stagnant state aid, increasing costs and a declining fund balance.
On the other side of the ledger, the school district is asking voters for a boost in funding this fall. The referendum would raise the per pupil excess levy from $500 to $950. We have said this seems reasonable. It also needs to pass if the district is going to save programs.
However, we are worried that public opinion is decidedly against this new funding. If that is the case, the cuts the school board is eyeing are not just part of a strategy to convince the public that the district's financial situation is serious. Those cuts are going to happen, and they are going to stick without passage of the referendum.
Voters need to know that. School board members need to know that in passing cuts, they are likely making changes that will not be reversed in the foreseeable future.
This is as serious a situation as we have ever seen in school funding. High school electives could be going away. Parent groups may have to entirely fund school sports. Kindergarten classes may be cut to half-days. Class sizes may be growing. And the public may be in a sour enough mood to let it all happen. It's difficult to feel optimistic about the situation.