BINGHAM — Bingham and Moscow residents will decide tomorrow whether to cut the industrial arts program from the school district.

It will be the first of two upcoming votes on the proposed 2011-12 budget for School Administrative District 13, which is trying for the second time to get a budget passed.

The district is undergoing the budget process again after Moscow residents defeated the budget by more than a 2-to-1 margin at the polls June 14.

The school board has found more than $100,000 in savings since voters rejected the budget, but between $50,000 and $60,000 of the savings includes the controversial decision to cut the industrial arts program.

The budget is now proposed at $3,048,308, which is a $39,443 decrease from last year’s figure. Despite the overall decrease, Bingham residents’ share is slated to increase $17,942, and Moscow residents’ share is projected to increase $104,603, compared with last year.

Residents will have the ability at the budget meeting at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Quimby Middle School in Bingham to add the industrial arts program back into the budget or make more cuts if they wish.

The figure they finalize will be voted on at the polls, open from 1-6 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 2, at Quimby Middle School and the Moscow Town Office.

One teacher, who has been with the district five years, will lose her job if the industrial arts program is cut. The program serves all middle school students and is an option for high school students.

“I’m very upset. First of all the town needs this program, and it has been successful,” said Nienke Adamse, the industrial arts teacher. “It’s not my job I’m fighting for. It’s the kids … For some kids, this is what they’re going for.”

Not everyone who graduates high school goes on to a four-year college, she said. Those who attend two-year schools or other types of higher education often end up using the carpentry and problem-solving skills she teaches.

Her students have made furniture for the local library and a community sign that’s in front of the middle school. One student constructed a ping pong table this year, she said.

School board members have cited a low projected enrollment in the program as a reason for cutting it, but Adamse said for the past three years, the numbers have increased once the semester starts.

Last year some of her classes had the maximum 14 students per class for both semesters. Some of the students have taken the class six times in a row, she said. She also teaches special education students.

Instead of cutting the program, the school board should close the middle school to save money, she said.

The seven members present at a previous school board meeting voted unanimously — in a non-binding, straw-pole vote — to close the school. The board is now gathering information on how much the district could save if it closed the school.

Some residents of Bingham and Moscow are worried that cutting more programs means the taxpayers are paying more money for a poor education, Adamse said.

“Over the years, I have stood up for my students who have grown to love my program, who have gained tremendously important skills, not only practical skills but also important life skills, such as problem solving, planning and perseverance,” she said.

Board Chairman Brian Malloy, of Bingham, said he understands that it’s an unpopular decision to cut the industrial arts program.

“It’s a bad situation, and more and more money is being put on the local taxpayer. I understand they don’t like it, and I don’t like it, but we just don’t have any choice in the matter,” he said.

The board has already cut back on administration — there is one principal for all grades, pre-kindergarten through 12, and the superintendent is paid for just three days per week, Malloy said.

The district faces a penalty of $47,189 for not consolidating, and it is receiving 16 percent less state subsidy. The budget proposes no pay increases for teachers or administrators.

With the majority of the budget composed of salaries and benefits, “there isn’t a lot of wiggle room other than cutting positions,” Malloy said.

While the industrial arts program does teach some of what is mandated by the state, other classes cover it as well.

“Our first obligation is to have the programs in place that are required by the state,” he said.

What board members are proposing as cost-cutting measures since the budget was defeated:

* eliminating the industrial arts program to save between $50,000 and $60,000;

* using carry-over funds totaling $46,000 toward the district’s revenue; and

* changing the duties of an alternative education teacher position, for savings of about $11,000.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]

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