READING, Pa. - Huge cuts are being proposed in the Reading School District -- a total of nearly 400 positions, including teachers, staff and administration.
Big numbers, stunning numbers. It's all part of an effort to make up for one huge number: a $53 million budget deficit.
Officials say even if every cut is made, the district would still be in the red by $20 million, a member of the finance committee said.
This is only a preliminary plan, but he equated closing the budget gap to trying to close the Grand Canyon.
When it comes to the 2012-13 Reading School District budget, the numbers are astounding.
Looming layoffs could be as many as 374.
"We need to have everyone involved so that we can make the problem as small as possible across the board," said Robert Hebner Jr., vice president of the Reading School District Board.
This is the first time school board members have seen where the proposed cuts will come from.
"Many of these things are not appealing to them and will not be appealing to you. But they have to be laid out," said James Washington, a member of the finance committee.
The bigger question is what programs are safe, with so many in jeopardy.
The preliminary plan includes cutting middle school athletics, consolidating Thomas Ford and Millmont Elementary school, and slashing the staff of guidance counselors by 25 percent.
"When you have a problem like this everything must be put on the table, but then you decide where are the most important things that you have to work with," said Hebner.
Board members say while consolidation of schools may be a way to save money, the district will still need to spend money on fixing HVAC systems and other problems at schools.
"When you talk about the facility of Southwest, it's still in poor repair," said board member Karen McCree. "I remember the computer room being there and being on fire and halfway burning up the last time we had a whole building full of kids."
The board hopes to hold another workshop to start working on which programs to cut in a couple of weeks.
The final budget needs to be adopted by June.
Allentown, PA 18102