It's going to take a combination of budget cuts and increased revenue to see Johnstown-Monroe schools through the coming years.

It's going to take a combination of budget cuts and increased revenue to see Johnstown-Monroe schools through the coming years.

School board members spent last weekend's "retreat" identifying what some of those cuts could look like, as well as how much and what kind of revenue they need to ask voters for in May. No action was taken by the board during the retreat.

On Jan. 24, all board members present (Terry Holter was unable to attend because of work commitments) directed J-M Treasurer Tammy Woods to determine how much revenue a 9.8 mill emergency operating levy will generate in preparation for the Feb. 2 meeting. A length of time for that levy was not determined at the retreat.

In addition to levy scenarios, Woods and superintendent Damien Bawn have also been asked to outline a variety of budget cut scenarios for the board's review. The goal, in light of recent levy failures, is to cut $642,610 from next year's budget.

While board president John Davis said there would be some more discussion about budget cuts at the regular Feb. 9 meeting, Bawn said detailed scenarios should not be expected until later in the month. Regardless, Davis said the board would have to vote on those cuts by March for them to affect the 2009-10 school year.

"These are not first-round reductions," Bawn cautioned.

Some of the areas the board is expecting to reduce include teaching staff, extracurricular/supplemental contracts and some elective academic programs.

In initial discussions, the board examined general fund savings to be realized by discontinuing district funding for extracurricular programs. Scenarios included retaining head coaches for each sport (including marching band) at the high school level, but paying for them with athletic and band participation funds, offset by increased pay-to-play fees.

There was extended discussion of raising pay-to-play costs, athletic booster involvement, club teams and other ways to offset cutbacks.

Two academic programs that could become victims of cost reductions are French and Vocational Agriculture.

Rhonda Piper, the only non-staff member in attendance Saturday, expressed dismay at the possible loss of the 80-year Vo-Ag program.

As they discussed moving toward larger teacher-to-student ratios, board members expressed their own dismay at the effect the changes in general would have on students.

"We're talking about a programmed education," Bawn said. "There won't be choices for them (the students) . I want the community to understand what the loss is, what we're giving away."

"The people this hurts are the people who already support the schools," noted board member Karen Blair.

"The decisions we make today affect our kids' futures and their ability to go to college," member Jay Young observed.

"I have to correct that," Davis interrupted. "The votes that took place affected that, not the decisions we make today."

Still, board members said Saturday they hope to come up with a clear list of "things that would come back" next fall with the passage of the May levy so voters will know before they go to the polls.

"We won't be able to bring everything back," Young said.