Tomahawk School Board members have labored as of late on how best to involve the public as some hard decisions are made concerning a potential $500,000 slashing of the district's budget. Class sizes, school programs and teacher/staff jobs are all at stake.
Board members know they ultimately have to make the tough choices, and they're ready to do that.
They'll place heaviest weight on the recommendations that are being generated by individual school principals and the district administrator. They, after all, know their buildings best, and when faced with some severe cuts, what can and cannot be sacrificed.
Teaching staff do, too, of course, but as logic will tell you, no one is going to step forward and recommend or even support trimming one's own program.
Therein comes the hard decisions. Staff wasn't hired and programs were created without an identified need, at least at that time.
Somewhere in the mix of all this, the board would also like to hear from us, the taxpayers and local citizenry, regarding our comfort level when it comes to education. If faced with a significant decline in the school budget, what do we feel will do the least damage to local education? Will we tolerate bigger class sizes? Are extracurriculars sacred? Would a reduction in out-of-district travel and training make a dent in the financial woes? Should the district office building start generating revenue through rentals, or even be sold?
Interested district residents - whether you have children in school or not - are encouraged to attend a public forum on school finances next Monday night, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m., in the district auditorium. We'll all get a brief "Budget 101" explanation, an update on the Tomahawk situation and a list of remedies currently under consideration. Then there will be time, probably in small groups, to offer ideas and discuss specific concerns.
The forum is just one method suggested by the board to generate community input, and, perhaps even more importantly, to help inform taxpayers about the challenges facing local education. A community survey may also follow. And, as is always the case, the public is welcome at committee and full board meetings, and/or to contact board members or the district administrator individually.
The board stresses and we must re-emphasize that Monday night's forum is strictly advisory. While input is sought, it's the elected board that ultimately must make the hard decisions. Your involvement will, however, help give them a reading on what taxpayers view as most important.
Keep in mind, too, that even when the decisions do come, they are apt only to be a plan or list of options of what to cut if necessary. And, remember, a layoff notice does not mean a teacher can't be called back if funding permits.
The district administrator, principals and ultimately the school board have no intention of cutting any more than necessary. Unfortunately, however, they tell us anticipated drops in state funding, declining enrollment and escalating insurance costs all point to some pretty tough times ahead.
Find out more and lend your two cents worth Feb. 3.