Claremont Schools Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin presented what he described as a compromise budget to the city’s school board Wednesday.
His plan would cut the district’s budget for the coming fiscal year, but less drastically than the board has requested.
The school board is looking to budget cuts as a mechanism to keep Claremont’s property taxes in check. The city has the highest tax rate in the state, while about one in seven Claremont residents live in poverty.
Residents packed the school board’s meeting Wednesday, speaking on both sides of the issue.
Larissa Cahill, a high school teacher and parent in the district, warned against too drastic of a cut in school spending. She said layoffs would represent a major loss, sending talent from Claremont to other communities.
“How many years of cuts do we keep making until we’re decimated?” she asked. “We’re standing at a precipice where we’re deciding whether or not our community becomes a wasteland.”
Others questioned whether there were savings to be made by cutting administrative positions, without dramatically affecting student experience.
City Manager Ryan McNutt and Mayor Charlene Lovett were in attendance. McNutt described the city’s ongoing efforts to attract new residents and businesses to Claremont. He encouraged the school board to consider the role public education plays in that equation, saying the reputation of the schools carries far more weight than economic development work by city staff.
McGoodwin said declining state aid is partly to blame for the schools’ economic woes. He and others also raised concerns about a controversial school voucher bill that's gaining support at the state level and, he said, could result in further cuts to state funding for the district.
The school board faces a January deadline to decide on the budget.