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Impact of the Budget Cuts and Freeze on the Visual and Performing Arts Department

By: Katarina Maldarelli and Chaivin Moon



The Belmont Public Schools is dealing with a budget shortfall of $2.1 million, which has resulted in unfortunate budget cuts. This was a result of the failure of the override of Proposition 2.5, which would’ve allowed the town to increase property taxes and, thereby, increase town revenues that could be used for BHS. Along with budget cuts, the school also experienced a budget freeze due to an increased number of out-of-district students, not to mention an astonishing 14% tuition increase for out-of-district programs. In order to understand how the budget freeze and the budget cuts have affected the Visual and Performing Arts Department at BHS, Arto Asadoorian, the Director, was interviewed by one of our reporters.


Mr. Asadoorian provided some interesting perspectives on the budget situation. First, he emphasized how important it is for towns and schools to prioritize among their different budget needs. Just as importantly, he asserted that “town residents have to decide what kind of school they want.” The question town residents have to ask themselves is whether an override and the concomitant property tax increase are worth it. With regard to the quality of Belmont schools, Mr. Asadoorian said that they are already “very good.” He added, somewhat philosophically, that “things cost money, and the responsible thing to do is plan for it.” We wholeheartedly agree.


Regarding the issue of the budget freeze, Mr. Asadoorian said that it has affected his department “quite a bit.” Fortunately, the department had already used 75-80% of their budget by the time of the freeze in February, so it had most of what they needed before the funds were frozen. Nevertheless, he said that this was not ideal because they liked to keep some money available so that, in the event that they have a great idea in March or April, they have the funds to follow through. Mr. Asadoorian went on to say that, with regard to the overall effect of budget cuts, it definitely does impact schools because there are things teachers aren’t teaching and experiences students don't have access to, because they don't have people to teach them–not just music and art, but the whole school.


Mr. Asadoorian said that the effect of the budget freeze on his department was that it required them to make do with what they had or look to groups like POMS (Parents of Music Students) or patrons of the school for help. Luckily for the Visual and Performing Arts Department, those groups did, in fact, step up to help pay for materials and equipment repairs. For example, these organizations have provided materials such as reeds, painting supplies, and sheet music when the budget freeze made it impossible for the school to buy them. Additionally, they provided $100.00 to fix a guitar, paid $150.00 to tune an old piano at Burbank Elementary School, and have funded many other repairs.


We were very happy to learn that the budget freeze and cuts did not drastically affect the Visual and Performing Arts Department. When he was asked about the impact on students of the freeze and cuts, Mr. Asadoorian’s response was very insightful. He said that teachers and administrators would obviously be well aware of certain materials or curriculum offerings that the students would be deprived of because of the budget cuts and freeze. However, he didn’t think students even noticed any difference, because they didn't know what they were missing! Finally, Mr. Asadoorian expressed the opinion, which we share, that “despite the failure of the override, we are fortunate to have such a wonderful school for our children.”


Image courtesy of: http://patch.com.


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