Hancock JROTC on block: Troubled board considers cutting to avoid deficit

HANCOCK — With a tight budget and no funding prospects envisioned in the future, the Hancock School District Board confronted the possibility of cutting the district’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program at its Monday meeting.

The funding issues sparked significant discussion around the question of cutting the program.

If it was retained, board members predicted inevitable budget deficits, so even though they did not wish to see the program eliminated, feel it should be considered.

“This is not a program question. This is really a finance question,” said Kevin Kalinec, the board’s president.

Later, he added, “It’s not sustainable. We don’t want to do this every year. We’ve got to get on board with it or cut it.”

A significant shortfall of $75,000 is forecasted for the budget, with $40,000 attributed to the JROTC program.

Though the numbers are difficult to determine at this point, as they depend on the number of students in the district, the number of students projected to enroll in the program is also down from previous years.

Board member Mary Babcock advised caution, citing the quality impact of the program on students and past graduates.

“Hopefully, we’re not being shortsighted,” she said. “That would be my only concern. … Are we getting rid of something that adds a tremendous amount of value to a certain specific group of kids that aren’t served in the other extracurricular activities? That is a concern to me.”

Houghton public schools were reportedly considering a JROTC program but are waiting to see what Hancock decides.

The costs of busing Hancock JROTC students to Houghton for the program was also raised for consideration.

Additionally, a Houghton program would take time to establish, as there is a waiting list, explained senior army instructor Maj. John Sullivan.

Sullivan would like to see the board decide as soon as possible. Wrapping up the program and finding a new position will take a significant amount of time, he said, and his contract ends in June.

“We need to know what direction we’re going to go, because there’re families that we have to take care of,” Sullivan said. “It’s a financial decision, and we understand that. Make the decision. Make the call and decide this is how it’s going to be.”

With many factors to consider, the board tabled the issue until next month to seek clarification on the budget figures.