About 300 people packed the Enochs High School auditorium Tuesday night to tell Modesto City Schools trustees how they should cut $25 million from next year's budget.
The consensus was the district should do everything it can to keep arts and music, vocational education, sports and the other extras that make school meaningful for many students.
"Keep the extras," said one parent. "Music and sports should be protected."
About 150 yards away, that point was being reinforced as cheering fans packed the gymnasium as the Enochs girls varsity basketball team played Modesto High for the Modesto Metro Conference title.
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Tuesday was the second and final budget forum the district has held to gather input from the public. The first forum was Jan. 25 at Hanshaw Middle School in south Modesto. It drew about 120 participants, many of whom work for the school district.
Tuesday's forum attracted many more parents and students. District officials estimated the number of teachers and other district employees at about 40 percent of the attendees.
As in the first forum, participants broke into small groups and brainstormed about what they wanted the district to keep and to cut. The groups then reassembled in the cafeteria and shared their top concerns. There also was time for individuals to comment.
Besides keeping extracurricular programs, participants favored the district keeping class sizes at 20 students in grades kindergarten through third.
Many favored eliminating what they called perks, such as travel and car allowances for the district's top administrators, and making sure that the budget pain is shared equally across all district staff.
"You hear so many complaints from parents," said parent Manuel Avila during one of the small group discussions. "Someone needs to investigate where the top people are spending their money."
Some also called for more parent volunteers, closing a high school, not opening Gregori High School in Salida and starting a foundation to support Modesto schools.
Cutting $25 million from next year's budget is a daunting task. It represents 10 percent of the district's $250 million budget. And it would come on the heels of the district's cutting about $21 million in the past two years as it deals with the recession and state cuts to education.
The district provided participants with a fact sheet outlining how much money it would save from a variety of proposed cuts.
For instance, the district says it would save $829,312 for every furlough day. Cutting pay by 1 percent for all employees would save $1.958 million and increasing K-3 class sizes from 20 students to 26 students would save $1.344 million. Increasing those classes to 32 students would save $3.963 million.
Modesto City Schools has made some progress on next year's budget deficit.
On Feb. 8, the trustees approved Superintendent Arturo Flores' plan to reorganize the district office to consolidate jobs and save about $2 million, although the head of the teachers union doubted the plan would save more than $1.2 million and called for more administrative cuts.
The district also is closing Pearson Elementary School next school year. Pearson enrolls about 280 students in kindergarten and first grade. Those students would attend nearby Franklin Elementary School.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2316.