- The music program has been eliminated for Pre-K through grade two in the Western Wayne School District.
The program, which had been around for 25 to 30 years, was not included in the 2014-15 budget due to financial shortfalls. School officials caution other programs may be at risk in the future.
"Everything's in jeopardy," district Superintendent Clay LaCoe said, noting the 2015-16 budget will be worse than the current one.
LaCoe said the district values the music program and it was "heartbreaking" to have to cut it.
"It's crushing to us," he said.
The superintendent said the district hopes something can be done financially to reinstate the music program within a year, but the budget outlook is "bleak."
He also said the district hopes to incorporate some of the music instruction into other classes.
The district doesn't expect to save money from the elimination but took the measure to avoid further tax hikes, said Rose Emmett, business manager.
LaCoe said the Pre-K to second grade music program was chosen to be eliminated because the district had a great deal of attrition with teachers retiring and the district not necessarily having to replace them.
At a public meeting Monday night, board member David Lindow said other extracurricular activities could be in jeopardy in a few years, including the football program.
The monetary shortfall is "killing" the district, which is headed toward bankruptcy, Lindow said.
"We're at a critical point," said the school board member.
The board in June adopted its budget for the 2014-15 school year with a six percent tax increase.
The shortfall is due to increased pension and health care costs, as well as the state not coming through with $2 million it owes the district in PLAN CON money, officials said.
The district has used its $5 million from its fund balance to fill the pension fund.
The PLAN CON program, meanwhile, offers reimbursements to public schools that undergo a major building project.
Western Wayne was included in the program when it constructed EverGreen School and secured loans based on the understanding the funding would be made available through PLAN CON.
The budget shows $40,900,792 of estimated available resources, establishing a real estate tax millage of 15.81.
The millage rate for the 2013-14 school year was 14.915.
Board President Alvin Hollister said that, as things stand now, the district will not be debt free until 2021.
In response to the elimination of the music program, board member A.J. Gaudenzi voted against the appointments of two temporary professional employees.
Gaudenzi congratulated the new hires and said his voting against their appointments was nothing against them. But he couldn't see voting in favor of the hirings as the district cuts the music program for children.
The new employees are Joshua Rowe, elementary/mid-level science, and Rachael Perri, guidance counselor.
Their salaries are $44,083 and $48,633, respectively.
The vote passed 8-1.
Gaudenzi noted how the high school band is very successful in large part due to the district having had a strong foundation in the music department. But now students won't receive school instruction in music until third grade, he said.
"It's a huge problem," Gaudenzi said.
In other business from Monday night's meeting, the board voted to close the Western Wayne Insurance Reimbursement checking account at Wayne Bank. The account is inactive and if not closed with incur a $5 per month service charge for inactivity.
The $504.83 balance will be deposited in the district's general fund.
The board also appointed the following to coaching positions for the 2014-15 school year:
• R. Darren Thorpe, boys' basketball head coach, $7,382
• Mark Bell, assistant boys' basketball coach, $5,136
• Matthew Fitzsimmons, junior high, seventh- and eighth-grade boys' basketball coach, $3,690
• Nate Taylor, junior high, seventh- and eighth-grade boys' basketball coach, $3,690
• Colleen Kloss, girls' basketball head coach, $7,382
• Gregory Butler, girls' basketball assistant coach, $5,136
• Dante Terenzio, wrestling head coach, $7,221
• Dominick Carachilo, girls' soccer assistant coach, $2,889
• Donald J. McDonough, weight training, winter 42 sessions, $2,374
• John Rhodes, assistant football coach, $3,979.