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Published: Tuesday, 11/18/2003

Evergreen board cuts activities for 04- 05

METAMORA - Evergreen schools will keep sports and other extracurricular activities this school year, but the school board last night cut those same activities for the 2004-2005 school year.

But the board, which faces a $600,000 budget shortfall for next school, did not say if those cuts would be restored if a new levy request is passed in March.

Last night, the board indicated it would put a new operating levy on the March ballot. It did not decide whether to ask for a property tax or an income tax. That decision will likely be made at its Dec. 8 meeting.

Whichever route the board takes, it is expected to ask for a levy that generates $900,000 a year rather than the $600,000 request that voters have rejected twice this year.

With the board expected to talk about cuts, more than 30 parents, students, and school employees stepped forward from the standing-room only crowd of more than 200 people last night to lobby the board to save teachers, high school busing, and athletics and other extracurricular activities.

Carol Newbury, who has driven a school bus for 30 years, reminded the board of the potential for traffic accidents if it cuts bus service in the district.

“Almost every year since I ve lived out here there is at least one child who dies in Fulton County from an automobile accident,” Ms. Newbury said. “I don t know if you d be able to live with yourself if there was a death. ... Where are our priorities?”

Many said saving busing was more important than sports and other extracurricular activities, which cost the board $240,000 a year.

“I send my children to school to get an education,” said Laura VandeSande, a mother of two.

But Shelley Miller, another mother of two, said her high school boys need sports.

“If they do not play sports they will be out doing other things they shouldn t be,” Ms. Miller said. “And they both work. But they ll still find trouble.”

Evergreen alumna and mother of four Cindy Pinkelman backed her up.

“There s a lot of things you learn in sports that are life skills,” Ms. Pinkelman said. And sports lead to benefits in the classroom, she added, saying, “How many kids are busting their butts in the classroom just so they can play sports?”

The board agreed to ask the state tax commissioner and Fulton County auditor to certify figures for a property tax and an income tax. Such an income tax probably would be 0.75 percent and such a property tax probably would be 6 to 7 mills, Superintendent Kenneth Jones said.

Evergreen voters narrowly defeated a 0.5 percent, three-year income tax for operating expenses on Nov. 4, according to unofficial results.

At press time the school board was meeting behind closed doors to discuss personnel matters related to the proposed cuts.

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