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GRANITE SLASHES SPECIAL-ED AND MUSIC FUNDS

"The rationale that other districts do it, is not acceptable to us." - Granite patron

Barbara Thompson

"I used to drive a Jaguar. Now I drive a Ford. I can't afford a Jaguar. Granite District is in the same boat." - Granite School Board President Lynn Davidson

Recently, Granite School Board President Lynn Davidson was discussing his problems with an administrator of a rural Utah school district.

Davidson was wondering if there were any way to avoid cutting funds for swimming pools, elementary-school music programs and school media specialists.

The rural Utah official could hardly contain his laughter. In his schools, such programs had been eliminated years ago.

The Granite School Board did not eliminate the programs Tuesday, but it did vote, as expected, to cut them substantially.

The only changes from previous proposals were allowing media specialists to essentially decide how $400,000 in cuts would be made, and making a larger-than-expected cut to the teacher's morale fund.

The cuts:

-Special-education funding will be cut by $1.5 million. The exact areas of cuts will be determined by special-education officials. The district will still spend $1.3 million on the program above state and federal funding.

-Elementary instrumental music will be reduced from two days per week to one. That will save an estimated $350,000.

-Elementary media programs (library assistance) will be restructured to save an estimated $400,000.

-Swimming pools and swimming pool programs will be reduced for an estimated savings of $200,000. This means the pool at Magna's Cyprus High School (the only one in town and established by contract between the city and district) will be closed for at least one year.

-Medical benefits for employees will be renegotiated and rates reduced. The projected savings remain undetermined.

-Elementary busing will be reduced by increasing the minimum distance for a child to be bused from one mile to 1.5 miles. Savings are estimated at $100,000.

-Cluster-unit reductions will save about $100,000.

-Alternative school program funds will be reduced by $50,000.

"In spite of all the reductions, Granite's new budget includes a lot of good news," a district news release said. "Employees will receive the largest raise in several years. . . . Because of a special legislative appropriation, $1.8 million will be used to purchase computers and improve our use of educational technology."

About 500 people gathered in the Granite High School Auditorium for the meeting, which lasted about five hours. Everyone voicing an opinion opposed some part of the proposal, but many offered suggestions, including those that were accepted by the board allowing cuts in the morale fund and allowing lower-level decisions on media cuts.

The overall budget is more than $220 million, a 2.31 percent increase over the past fiscal year.

The board also approved a slight increase in the mill levy, about a quarter of a mill, to handle fluctuations in bond financing.