Concern about sports programs raised during budget workshop

Questions about sports and other programs were among topics from the audience during a Rome school district budget "workshop" for the public this week.

About 20 people attended the presentation Wednesday night on the proposed 2012-13 budget, and "asked very interesting and concerned questions," said Board of Education President Patricia Riedel.

One person was worried that the district was looking to cut sports programs, based on the district’s recent compilation of costs per pupil for the various teams, said Riedel. But she emphasized "we don’t want to cut sports if we can avoid it," adding that the district is seeking to develop ways to involve more students in athletics as another way to help them stay involved in school.

The proposed budget of $102.4 million at this point faces a gap between expense and revenues of about $1.72 million. Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons said Friday the district will review ways to close the gap and hopefully avoid staffing cuts, although that move cannot be ruled out yet.

Asked whether he has asked the district’s employee unions for wage concessions to help balance the budget, Simons said "not at this point." There are other areas of the budget that he "still wants to take a look at...unrelated to personnel," for possible adjustments. As for whether he anticipates asking for union concessions, he said "I can’t say at this point."

A year ago the district asked its employee unions including teachers for a wage freeze to help resolve a budget crunch, but was rejected. Two years ago the unions agreed to smaller raises than what their contracts called for, again due to budget problems. The largest of the unions represents about 500 district teachers.