• Orchestra, sideline cheer funds spared from activities cuts; $80K saved
Brookings school board members on Monday approved most of the Brookings School District's recommended activities department budget cuts.
But at the urging of parents and students within the district, a little more than $3,200 for the high school orchestra program and sideline cheer travel will remain in the budget for the 2011-2012 school year.
In all, the activities department changes, including some revenue increases, are expected to save the district nearly $80,000 next school year.
Dozens of parents crowded the Mickelson Middle School library this week to ask that the orchestra and sideline cheer funds be left alone. Most of the public comment focused on keeping the high school orchestra program in place.
Parents said while participation at the high school level is low now, there is a large group of musicians in lower grades who will have an interest in the future. Many other orchestra students sought private lessons in the past few years, parents said, because they were disappointed with the school program and personnel. Turning things around
But many in the group said the director who returned to the district last semester of the past school year had been turning things around.
School Superintendent Roger DeGroot said the orchestra reduction was not recommended to save money. It was because of lack of student participation , as not a single student had registered this winter for the activity next year.
School board member Steve Bayer agreed. "This wasn't a budget reduction. There were no students signed up at the high school, so how can you have a program when no one is signed up?"
Some parents said the lack of registrants could have been due to a lot of unknowns with the orchestra program at that time.
School district officials say they can still work with students who may be interested in orchestra and see what can be done to accommodate them.
"We will work with Mom and Dad and students as best we can to put something in place," DeGroot said.
Some parents said they thought the $360,000 anonymous gift to the school district announced in April came with the stipulation that orchestra program remain intact.
DeGroot said that wasn't the case. "There were no strings ever attached. The only thing we talked about when we dealt with this was that we offer the same thing next year that we offered this year, and if we don't have high school orchestra next year, that's exactly what we had this year.
"This was a wonderful person who came and said 'I want to have the same opportunity for your students next year as they had this past year,' and we are living within those guidelines ." Fewer students anticipated
Sideline cheer travel money had been recommended for reduction because officials anticipate less student participation in the activity.
The budget reductions that were approved Monday include the extra-duty salary for an athletic trainer ($14,274). That cost was removed because that position will be paid for through a private contract.
Also cut was the student newspaper due to low student participation, saving $10,427. Another approved change is the elimination of all student meal per diems ($20,000).
DeGroot said the student newspaper could return if there's enough interest in the future. Revenue hiked $30K
The activities department plans to raise revenue this year by increasing sports marketing by $30,500 and by increasing student activity card prices by $5 each for high school, middle school and intermediate school students and by $10 each for family student packages to raise $3,500.
Cuts at the local level are being made as a result of an 8.6 percent cut to state K-12 education funding from the South Dakota Legislature. This January, Gov. Dennis Daugaard wanted to slash the state budget by 10 percent across the board, causing a $903,000 budget shortfall in the Brookings School District. The blow was softened to 6.6 percent, thanks to the addition of $25 million in one-time funding , which will be shared between education and Medicaid.
The district was given another lifeline in April, when the district received the anonymous $360,000 gift.
Brookings now faces a $625,000 shortfall next year.
Brookings school administration told Brookings School Activities Director Steve Berseth in March that he would need to cut 7 percent, or $42,400, from the district's activities budget for the 2011-2012 school year.
Contact Jill Fier at jfier@brookingsregister .com.