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col Funding decisions judicious

Rochester School Board OKs use for tax levy override

Members of the Rochester School Board have had to make two tough decisions on how to use the $6.8 million approved in the recent tax levy override vote.

The first set of decisions involved specific expenditures for grade school, middle school and high school purposes. The second was whether to save part of the $6.8 million produced by the tax levy override for the next biennium when school payments from the state might be less than expected because of the state's budget problems.

In both cases, the board made good decisions. The decision to save part of the funds for the 2004-2005 biennium was eminently justified by events. It is clear that the state has a shortfall of $3.2 billion for that period, and there is every reason to expect a major cutback in funding for schools.

In allocating the remaining funds for various purposes, the board solicited suggestions from the public, parents, teachers and other staff members and then assigned six teams to review the suggestions and make recommendations. The result was a series of plans for adding staff or programs for a number of activities at the elementary, grade school and high school level.

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A sample of those allocations includes $171,000 for a first-grade reading intervention program, $228,000 for hiring middle school reading teachers, $296,706 for increasing seventh-period offerings at the three high schools, $227,931 for hiring paraprofessional help at 22 schools, and $114, 000 for hiring one elementary music and one elementary physical education teacher. Nineteen different expenditures were approved, with priority given to the first 12 on the list.

The board obviously could not respond to every spending request, but by soliciting recommendations from a variety of sources, it was able to solve a broad range of problems. And by saving all but $3 million of the override levy, it will be in a position to avoid more serious cuts in the next biennium if state funding falls short.

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