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Columbia School Board cuts budget for middle school athletics

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 | 12:14 a.m. CST; updated 1:46 p.m. CST, Thursday, March 11, 2010

CORRECTION: Board member James Whitt said he thought booster clubs might be able to help fund athletics. An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the board member speaking. Also, the board voted unanimously to approve the hiring of J.E. Dunn as the construction manager for Columbia’s newest high school project. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect vote.

COLUMBIA — Middle school students will face only their classmates on the field or court next school year after the Columbia School Board voted 6-1 to cut $415,594 to its 2011-12 budget at its meeting Monday.

The money-saving idea to turn middle school athletics into an intramural program drew the most discussion from the board.

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Board member James Whitt dissented.

“I see this as an elimination of middle school athletics, not an adjustment, and one that has an impact on the teams who would play us,” Whitt said.

The board discussed alternate sources of funding before making the decision.

Whitt said he thought booster clubs might be able to help fund the athletics program, but board member Ines Segert said it would be hard to equally distribute that money.

As Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher explained the areas for reduction, he pointed to the economic downturn as a cause.

“This really indicates the severity of the budget shortfall, and no one wants to talk about this, but tough times call for tough decisions,” Belcher said.

These changes bring the total reductions to approximately $5.63 million for fiscal year 2011.

The 2009-10 budget was also up for amendment at the meeting. The board unanimously approved several increases, many of which involve the early childhood special education program.

“We have more students and more locations this year, so we have to increase the budget to pay for transportation,” said Linda Quinley, chief financial officer of the district and Board of Education treasurer, before the meeting.
Also at the meeting:

  • The board unanimously approved a one-year extension of Belcher’s superintendent contract, which will go through the 2012-13 school year. As a nod to the economic situation, Belcher refused to consider an increase to his current $180,000 a year salary.
  • The board voted unanimously to approve the hiring of J.E. Dunn as the construction manager for Columbia’s newest high school project. While some board members thought hiring a construction manager would be more expensive than a general contractor, others argued that a construction manager would act as an advocate for the school district on-site. Segert dissented.

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