Reading School District facing $53 million shortfall

Published: Mar 26 2012 08:00:00 PM EDT   Updated On: Mar 27 2012 03:01:25 PM EDT
READING, Pa. -

Reading School District officials used the term "ugly," when they described the looming $53 million short fall facing the district.

After the announcement was made Monday night, a collective gasp could be heard throughout the board room.

"We kind of knew this last year when we had the budget from the state, that we could kind of expect the worst," said Yvonne Stroman, school board president. "So we're going to go into this with our worst case scenarios and try to regroup and figure out what are some things, perhaps, we overlooked."

Board members analyzed everything from retirement benefits, to substitute teacher services, to residents who have not paid their school taxes, all to try to figure out what was contributing to the multimillion-dollar short fall.

Now officials said the next step is trying to balance the budget.

Some of the suggestions presented included:

Closing four gateway schools;
Closing one elementary school;
Eliminating middle school athletics;
Increase class sizes at elementary and middle schools;
Move to half-day kindergarten;
Wage freeze for one year for all staff; and
Institute staggered start and end time for all levels to lower transportation costs.

These are only suggestions, stressed acting superintendent Dr. J. Drue Miles.

"There were two pages [items to consider to balance the budget] that we were given from the administration, and so we're going to have to look through and comb through each alternative to see what we can do and how do we close that gap," said Stroman.

Now officials said they will be working to make some prudent but tough decisions, said Stroman.

The next budget meeting is scheduled for April 4.