B-W school budget cut by $1.8M

Officials of the Bay-Waveland School District are considering ways to slice into a projected $1.8 million deficit for the coming fiscal year, including reducing work days and reassigning teachers to cover jobs being vacated through retirements and resignations.

The district has already absorbed a $621,000 cut in state funding so far in the current fiscal year. Now, it faces additional funding reductions in its 2010-2011 budget primarily, because school attendance levels have never recovered from student losses following Hurricane Katrina.

“Everyone thought the kids would come back,” Superintendent of Schools Rebecca Ladner told the Board of Education during a budget workshop Monday. “Well, they didn’t.”

The district now has about 1,700 students, down substantially from pre-Katrina levels.

Reduction proposals discussed Monday will be brought before the School Board for approval at its May 10 meeting. If passed, a public hearing on the new budget will be scheduled for June 7.

The question at hand, Ladner said, is obvious: “How are we going to cut that $1.8 million now?”

A long list of possible reductions areas were discussed. They include:

— Not making new hires to replace about 10 certified educators who said they are resigning or retiring before next school year. Instead, teachers already in the system will be moved around to fill the vacancies.

— Revising schedules and reducing annual work schedules by five days. For instance, employees who current work 240 days per year would be reduced to 235 days. Assistant teachers would be cut from 187 work days to 182, and other cuts would apply to various work classifications.

— Shutting down the entire school system from July 5-9.

— Reducing three assistant principals from 12-month contracts to 11 months.

— Eliminating one school nurse.

— Slashing costs at the Early Education Center, which is currently funded at $12,000 per month.

— Cutting textbook spending from $100,000 to $10,000, and slashing much of the $250,000 per year currently spent on technology.

Another alternative under discussion involves reducing the work day for non-certified workers – secretaries, cafeteria help, maintenance workers, and the like – from eight to seven hours. Sick leave, vacation and holiday policies are also under review.

Budget consultant Garland Cuevas said those job categories had historically worked seven-hour days until a year ago. “It’s either cutting hours, or start cutting people,” he said.

Ladner said efforts are being made to trim wherever possible without layoffs, which she called “the other way.”

“We’ve never approached it from the other way,” she said. “I know exactly the number of employees it takes to reach $1.8 million.”

School board members seemed resigned to the cuts, but some were clearly unsettled by the briefing. They know they will be hearing from teachers, other employees, and parents.

“I really don’t know what to tell the individuals who call, except to say, ‘it’s either that or zero,'” Board President Sherry Ponder said.

Board member Mike Benvenutti said employees should be aware that hard times could continue beyond the approaching new school year. “They need to understand, this is not the end of it,” he said.

BY: J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

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