ESTELL MANOR - The Estell Manor school board adopted a $4.4 million 2010-11 budget Wednesday calling for a 23.4-cent tax rate increase.

Spending in the budget is going down by about $254,577, or 5.5 percent, but residents would have to pay more taxes to cover a loss in government aid and higher expenses. The district will get $215,683 less in state aid and lose $67,000 in one-time federal aid. At the same time, expenses will go up by $235,589 for high school tuition, special education, transportation and maintenance.

To balance the budget, Superintendent John Cressey said the district had to eliminate most extracurricular activities, the high school sports and activities bus, and cut the guidance counselor and switch three teaching jobs from full to part time. Staff hours are being cut and all salaries - except the teachers - are frozen. Cressey added that the district is in preliminary concession talks with the teachers union.

The new tax rate, adjusted at the last minute, would increase to $2.08 per $100 of assessed value, Business Administrator Betty Edwards said. The tax levy will go up about 13.5 percent to nearly $2.3 million.

If the budget does not pass, Cressey said the school could close and merge with another district because more layoffs would bring staff down to 8.6 teachers when the state minimum is 11.6 teachers. The school could also stop busing children who live within two miles.

More than 100 people attended the public hearing and 16 spoke out, most in support of the budget.

John Wagner, a construction worker with three children in the district, said he would like to see teacher salary freezes to restore after-school programs.

"The programs we're cutting are the building blocks on which they grow up," he said.

Lisa Owens, a mother of two, said she was very disappointed technology, Spanish lessons and the guidance counselor will be cut.

"To not have technology is crazy, and we need world languages," she said.

Despite the cuts, Owens said she will support the budget and encouraged the public to write protest letters to the governor.

The school vote will take place April 20.

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