Columbia School Board votes to wait on budget decision

Monday, June 13, 2011 | 11:47 p.m. CDT; updated 5:24 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 15, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Columbia School Board voted to wait to decide whether to adopt the 2011-2012 budget Monday night. 

Instead, members decided to the vote on it at their work session on June 23.

During a public hearing held before the board's session, Columbia Public School Chief Financial Officer Linda Quinley walked the audience of roughly 30 through the cuts and adjustments that took place in the coming school year's budget. 

This year's budget resulted in about $1.8 million in cuts, including the elimination of two school resource officers in the district. The cuts are expected to save about $52,968. 

Once the public was given the opportunity to speak at the evening's hearing, the removal of the officers was the only aspect of the budget discussed by residents.

Two Jefferson Junior High School teachers raised their concerns. 

"We will be losing our SRO, but it's not about his job. It's about the significance and what he's able to do with our students," said Jill Villasana, a ninth-grade social studies teacher at Jefferson. 

Villasana stressed to the board that the officers provide a lot of things for their buildings and that the relationships that they form with students is often the first positive interaction that they have ever had with a law enforcement officer. 

“I really do feel like the work that our officers are doing there is invaluable," said Teresa Gooch, another teacher at Jefferson. "I think we are underestimating the impact that the removal of the SRO officers is going to have.”

The board acknowledged the concerns but also said the cuts that are taking place would not be easy.

“We’re making decisions that we have to prioritize one good program over another good program,” Columbia Public School Superintendent Chris Belcher said Friday. 

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