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Cairo-Durham School Board will close Durham Elementary in 2013-2014

Apr 16, 2012 10:24 pm
The Cairo-Durham School Board indicated they will close Durham Elementary after next year's term during their final "Budget Discussion" on Mon., Apr. 16, before voting on a final budget Thu., Apr. 19. The board also indicated it will raise the tax levy 3.8 percent, the maximum amount allowed under the state's tax cap that requires approval by 50 percent plus one in May school elections. Before the meeting last night, the Cairo-Durham School District was still $164,598 short of a balanced budget with the 3.8 percent total increase in school taxes (individual taxes will go up varying amounts, not 3.8 percent). On Monday, the board decided to close that gap first with an "inter-municipal agreement with Greenville" schools, so both districts share bus maintenance costs. That reportedly saves $40,000, leaving a $124,598 gap. To make up that amount, the board decided to, just three days before voting on a budget, ask the teachers unions for some type of concession. Board member Beth Phillips suggested that if unions took two percent less for insurance, it would make up most of the difference. Union officials were not there to respond to this last-minute request. So the school board made a back-up plan, saying that a teacher's job at both Cairo Elementary and the district's middle school, would be eliminated, and an additional $3698 would need to be taken from sports or other after-school activities, if the union's would not agree to some contract restructuring. School board President Greg Koerner-Fox repeatedly steered the conversation to next year's $2.5 million deficit. Because of that, the board indicated it will close Durham Elementary in 2013-2014, saving somewhat less then the $642,742 they would have saved by closing the school next year, which two members advocated. Koerner-Fox indicated that closing the school and negotiating further union concessions is the only solution for that $2.5-million problem, or "we will be cutting 30 teachers next year to make up the $2 million." The public was given a chance to speak after the board made their decisions, and the current Cairo-Durham bus maintenance crew heard the news they were losing their school contract from a text message and arrived to protest. A large group of pro-arts students and teachers were there, as "art and music" were considered for cuts, but the board repeatedly said Monday they were not cutting arts. Few parents begged to keep Durham Elementary open, even as the board reported one other hope. After giving up on turning Durham into a charter school, they are now hearing a "magnet" school proposal from an education company. The Cairo-Durham School Board meets at 7 p.m. Thu., Apr. 19 in the Cairo High School auditorium to vote on the budget. Tune in to a 30-minute recap of the meeting at 2 p.m. Tue., Apr. 17 on WGXC 90.7-FM. And a full recording of the meeting will be here and at wgxc.org soon.
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