Pickens to Cut Nine Teaching Positions

Dragon's Corner, Featured Stories

On Thursday, May 17th, at a Board of Education (BOE) Financial Workshop, Chief Financial Officer Amy Burgess discussed with the board 9 teaching cuts, Title 1 budget cuts, increases in the school’s state health insurance plan, and an increase in contribution for teacher retirement.

“We have eliminated a net of 9 teaching slots,”

said Burgess in the middle of the meeting on Thursday.

“No one has been fired. No one has been force to retire. These are by attrition. We do have slots that will have to be replaced…We are reducing some par-pro spots. Some of them have been voluntary but again it is by attrition. No one has been laid off at this point,”

Burgess continued.

The decision to eliminate the nine teaching positions is an attempt by the BOE to reduce their budget through attrition. Attrition is when a company or school gradually reduces their personnel, as when somebody retires or resigns and they choose not to replace the position.

Although the choice is suppose to help reduce the school’s budget, Burgess says they still might not get the reduction they expected.

“We eliminated a net of 9 teaching slots but you’re only going to see a decrease of $463,000 there because 46 percent of our staff is eligible for a step raise based on the state salary schedule. That caused almost a $200,000 increase for those remaining staff members.”

Along with the step raise, Superintendent Ben Desper told FYN that last week alone the BOE was given $576,000 in cost increases for next year.

$200,000 of that increase will come from Title 1 budget cuts. Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides supplemental funding by the U.S Department of Education to local school districts to meet the needs of at-risk and low-income students

Burgess explained they use their Title 1 funds to help address their remediation needs at the Middle School because they receive no funding for remediation at the Middle School from the state level. Burgess said they also pay for several para-pros that man computer labs and that are in the class room. In addition, Title 1 also allows for the BOE to keep some of the para-pros they might have had to otherwise lay off.

The BOE is also expecting a $176,000 increase in state health insurance next year.

Burgess told the BOE in the meeting that just last Thursday they received noticed that the State Health Dept. is going to change the way it figures premiums for certified employees.

The news came as a shock to the BOE because earlier in February the BOE had received information from Burgess that the state would be increasing their insurance fees for non-certified employees by $150 a month. Now that there will be an increase for certified employees as well, this will make balancing a budget even more difficult on the BOE.

“I got a memo that they were going to start charging a flat fee for certified employees with no rules and no instructions,”

said Burgess. Burgess then explained that the flat fee that they will have to calculate for certified employees will have a whole different set of instructions than the way they calculate the flat fee for non-certified employees.

“I applied what I think is the proper way,”

Burgess added.

Burgess estimated that the new fee would increase their premiums by $176,000. Like the increase in insurance for non-certified employees, the increase would have to be paid by the employer and not the employee.

Superintendent Desper also informed the board that this was in addition to a $500,000 increase in state health insurance that they had already been told to expect over the next three years.

Along with the alarming news of Title 1 increases and state health insurance increases, the BOE was also told that they should expect an increase of $200,000 in required contribution for the teacher retirement program.

“We were told that we would have to increase by 1 percent our contribution to the retirement system, which that comes out to approximately $200,000.”

said Desper.

Further Desper said that with the new increases the school will now have to wait until they receive a Tax Digest, so they can figure out how to manage the new criteria of the budget. The school system had been prepared for the step raise and a $500,000 classified insurance increase but not for the others, he said.

“So that’s another $200,000 on top of $176,000 on top of $500,000 on top of the step raise.” Desper said in the meeting. “Now that we have thrown in $200,000 more for retirement and $176,000 more for insurance, we’re going to have to wait until we get some additional information on the Tax Digest before we can go much further.”

FYN will bring you more information as the story develops.

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