After a brief conversation, the trustees voted. Taylor, O’Hagan, Laura Cullen and Mary Clark all backed the 7 percent increase that was eventually approved; Eric Harrison favored a 9 percent increase.
The next step will be for the board to submit a version of the budget to the state comptroller on March 1. Further budget work sessions are planned for Feb. 6, 13 and 27 at the high school (see www3.baldwinschools.org for meeting times), where the exact composition of the budget will be developed.
Once a draft of the budget is approved, board trustees and district officials will hit the road to publicize it. The law does not allow them to promote the spending plan, but they will spread the word that it exists and underscore the cuts they believe they will have to make if it fails.
Should the first version of the budget be voted down, the board would present a second version. If that, too, is rejected, the district would be forced to operate on contingency — a spending plan with no increase, which Mapes has said would require about $9 million in cuts.
Mapes and Cullen have both described this year’s budget as the first quarter of a four-year plan that will bring the district to solvency. Cullen told the Herald that a 7 percent increase this year, followed by yet to be determined increases over the next three years, should even out the district’s fiscal picture.
Mapes hit the same note at the Jan. 30 meeting. “We think in four years,” he said, “we can get to a point where revenue and expenses balance out without cuts.”
What if the busing proposal is voted down?
Even if Baldwin votes to raise taxes by 7 percent, the district will need to cover a $2.7 million budget gap. It hopes to save $1 million via a transportation referendum on Feb. 26. (A public meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 19, at the high school, will focus on this measure.) If the savings from the transportation reductions are not available, the district is contemplating the following slate of cuts: