Buyouts, possible layoffs in NU district
and Jeff Pelline
The Nevada Joint Union High School District is looking at cutting its budget by $1.75 million for 2008-2009 because of the state budget crisis – prompting early retirement packages for teachers, possible layoffs and other cost-cutting steps.
The grim outlook emerged at a school board meeting Tuesday night, where the board approved voluntary buyouts for up to 10 teachers that pay $50,000 per person.
“These are very unusual circumstances,” said Karen Suenram, assistant superintendent for business, at last night’s meeting.
Earlier in the day, school administrators met with teachers to discuss the situation. Suenram said some teachers were taken aback by its severity.
“The governor has proposed a 10 percent across-the-board cut to state-funded programs in 2008-2009,” said a memo handed out to school staff. “This will significantly jeopardize school funding. In fact, school funding experts are saying that these proposals are the most dramatic since the state assumed responsibility for school funding.”
About 50 teachers are eligible for the voluntary buyouts, which are being offered on the basis of seniority. The deal was negotiated between the district and the Nevada Joint Union High School Teachers Association.
The program could pay for itself in two years, because of the difference in pay for a teacher who is nearing retirement and a new hire, said Suenram.
Some of the positions left vacant by the early buyouts may not be filled, said Superintendent Ralf Swenson.
The plan was unanimously approved by the school board Tuesday night. All school board members except for John Renwick were present.
Layoffs also are being considered but no final decision has been made, Swenson added at the meeting.
The deadline for issuing any layoff notices, if needed, will be March 15.
The district hired 29 school teachers in 2007-2008 to replace 30 retirees, Suenram said.
If the governor’s proposed budget for 2008-2009 is adopted, the high school district will lose between $2.3 million and $2.5 million, according to its projections.
The governor has projected a state budget deficit of $14.5 billion, of the worst shortfalls in years. It includes proposed cuts to health programs, prisons, and state parks, among other programs, not just schools.
“Without changes to current year operations (no salary increases), we will need to reduce about $1.75 million from our projected $34 million budget,” the memo said.
The school will find it difficult to find areas to cut costs, because 80 percent of its budget is spent on employee salaries and benefits.
Teachers and administration staff are being given a form that asks them to list “I think ways to save money are,” “recognizing the district has to make budget cuts, I hope you will consider the following,” and “my biggest concern is.” The district will compile the information.
A timeline presented at the meeting called for refined budget projections in April, analysis of the governor’s budget in May, and adoption of a final high school district budget in June.
The district’s budget reduction goals include the $1.75 million reduction, as well as enhancing revenue wherever possible; keeping programs intact; and getting as much staff input as possible.
“Preserving jobs and programs is a driving force in the dialogue,” Swenson said.
The district said it is working with the California Teachers Association, the California School Employees Association, California School Boards Association, California School Business Association, Association of California School Administrators and County Superintendents Association to fight the proposed cutbacks.
“It is imperative that we all work together to contest these proposals,” the memo said. “However, in the meantime we must plan for the worst.”
The cutbacks will hurt public schools throughout the state. It is the largest proposed reduction to California education in history, the district said.
California already is 46th in the nation when comparing the per pupil amount spent for education, it added.
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