Thursday, May 25, 2000

School board going over details of proposed budget

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati school board members Wednesday delved into a proposed $374 million budget, honing in on details overshadowed by the possibility of longer bus rides or elimination of extracurricular activities.

        Those details include the possibility of open enrollment and using stadium money allocated for building improvements for maintenance.

        “We're going to have to deal with some policy issues before we get everything settled,” board member and budget committee chair Lynn Marmer said at Wednesday's budget workshop.

        The recommended budget, presented Monday, calls for elimination of extracurricular activities midyear and extending the current 1-mile limit for bus transportation to 1.5 miles midyear if voters don't pass a tax levy increase this fall.

        The last two attempts to pass levy increases have failed, and district officials are still debating how much to request in October.

        Superintendent Steven J. Ada mowski said he was encouragedthe budget would pass, even though he added $1 million for early literacy and summer programs the budget committee did not initially recommend.

        “We've narrowed it down to about five issues, and that's a lot less than last year,” Mr. Adamowski said. “And because we've gone to school-based budgeting (in which individual schools create their own budget based on their per-pupil allowance), about 75 percent of the budget is already allocated.”

        The current budget runs through June 30, but the board can pass temporary budgets until October, when state law requires a permanent budget for the year.

        Officials last year debated open enrollment — in which students from outside the district are allowed to attend district schools and the district is reimbursed by the students' home districts.

        But the idea was tabled over concerns that outside students would take away spots from CPS students in popular programs such as the School for Creative and Performing Arts and the academically challenging Walnut Hills High School.

        Currently, 30 students from outside the district pay tuition to attend CPS schools. Another 30 attend for free because their parents are CPS employees.

        District officials say that the elimination of tuition would be balanced by additional state funding, but that CPS would get an additional $150,000 for the children of employees.

        As for the stadium funds, the city is giving the district $5 million a year for the next 20 years as part of the half-cent tax increase approved by voters.

        The proposed CPS budget would reallocate $2.8 million of that money to subsidize the district's budget, but Ms. Marmer said that the board would not allow the money to be used for “routine maintenance such as paint and spackle.”

        “These would be improvements of substance,” said Ms. Marmer, who said that the money would be spent outside the general fund budget so they could be tracked. “And if the levy passes, we can reallocate that money as well to what it was intended for.”


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