Board makes $193,000 in cuts, considers dropping teaching position, soccer program

LEROY — As its annual school budget continues to decline, members of the Pine River Area Schools Board of Education are having to make tough decisions regarding expenditures.

Pine River is facing the same hardships as other rural districts around the state — a lack of state funding and enrolled students.

During Monday's meeting, the board approved a motion to cut more than $193,000, which is roughly about one-third of the $600,000 in cuts needed to balance the 2014-15 budget. Eliminations include building equipment repairs, contracted maintenance, Destination Imagination, heating and electricity at Luther Elementary School, 5th grade camp and more.

Board member Ron Schalow said he is not fond of a number of the items on the chopping block, but wants the cuts to stay as far away from the classroom as possible. He hopes that desire is obtainable, but understands the hard part is far from over.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Schalow said.

In addition, the board discussed cutting a teaching position at the high school/middle school, the YMCA tutoring program and the high school soccer program during a public hearing. If all are cut, it will save about $100,000 for the district, according to superintendent Matthew Lukshaitis.

Varsity soccer coach Jenny Hoaglund addressed the board during the meeting, asking for an opportunity to figure a way to reduce costs for the soccer program, which costs the district about $10,000. She said there are many options the team and parents of the students can consider and it can still be a successful program.

Tustin resident Connie Underhill asked the board why soccer was the only sport considered for cutting, and Lukshaitis said at the time he looked at the item, less students had expressed interest in the sport. Also, it is a hard choice deciding what to keep in the budget, especially when someone is going to be hurt from the decision no matter what item is cut, he added.

"It's not personal," Lukshaitis said. "It's an attempt to focus on our K-12 as much as possible. It's where we are. We have to have the money to operate next year."

The items will be up for vote at the next board meeting, which will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 23.