Worcester CS expects to go to contingency


By Jim Poole

Worcester Superintendent Gary Kuch plans to recommend that the school board adopt a contingency budget for 2011-12.
That recommendation, expected tonight, comes in the wake of Worcester voters’ rejection of the proposed $10.4 million budget last week.
Mr. Kuch’s contingency recommendation is for the short term. Over a longer period, he wants to learn why there’s weak community support for the school.
This is the third straight year voters defeated the budget. Last year, the margin was about 200 votes, though the margin narrowed to about 100 last week.
Although the vote was closer this year, Worcester was the only district in the area to have a budget go down.
“How do we find out the real sentiment and what do we do about it?” Mr. Kuch asked.
At pre-vote budget meetings, people were positive and some said the meetings “clarified a lot of things,” Mr. Kuch said.
He suspects voter dissatisfaction may be tied to Worcester’s $32.6 million building project. Much of the proposed budget’s spending increase was debt service on the project, but state aid compensated for it.
The building project is expected to be substantially completed later this year, and Mr. Kuch hopes the community rallies around the new facility.
In the meantime, he plans to go out in the community and gauge opinion.
“I don’t know the real feeling out there,” Mr. Kuch said. “After 30 years in education, I’m still willing to learn.”
As for the budget itself, a contingency budget––which the district also had this year––would remove equipment purchases from the budget voters defeated.
Also under contingency, the community can use the school after hours only when custodial staff is present––in other words, not on weekends.
School officials “built the budget” close to contingency, Mr. Kuch said, trying to trim as much as possible.
He added that there wasn’t much left in the budget to cut and put before voters again.
“We could take sports out, but that would return only half a teacher,” Mr. Kuch said. “And in sports, we’d be taking away something that a lot of kids enjoy.
“My recommendation is to go to contingency. I don’t think we should put the budget up again.”