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Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

School district makes cuts

Programs, some busing cut; pay to participate to begin

By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - Cuts in programs and personnel to save the district about $1.5 million will be implemented for next school year due to the failure of a recent levy.
The elimination of the vocational agriculture program, implementation of pay to participate and the reduction of at least one teacher and several building secretaries are among actions approved by board of education members meeting in special session Tuesday.
St. Marys City Schools Superintendent Shawn Brown said some of the cuts, including the family consumer science teacher and some secretaries, would result in job loss. However, most cuts will be made through attrition.
Also on the chopping block was Kurt Kuffner's business manager position. Board member Lisa Tobin said the position is gone, but Kuffner would not be laid off. She said the board would maintain his services by amending his contract.
In the coming weeks the board will discuss Kuffner's salary and new contract, along with other positions, to determine which staff members will need to be laid off and which can be shuffled into other jobs, Brown said this morning.
Two items from the initial cut list were spared: DECA and the truancy officer position.
Brown said DECA is part of the Tri Star program. It is designed to help prepare students for leadership roles and entrepreneurship in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. Being part of Tri Star means the cost of the program, including teacher salary, is portioned out.
"We don't cover (the teacher's) full salary," he said. "The costs associated are shared by the other schools."
Brown said instead of costing the district about $60,000, the program only costs $10,000-$12,000.
"With 50-60 kids in the program, it's a good one to keep," he said.
Board members agreed.
Members also kept the district's truancy officer on the recommendation of board member Brian Little.
"I assume that because of some of the duties the truancy officer does, he was put high on the list," Little said, referring to a multi-tier plan of cutbacks developed by the board in April. "However, the safety and security and other duties that he does in my opinion far outweigh the other minor duties ... I would wish to move him further down the list.
Board member Ralph Wiley said to offset the cost of sparing the truancy officer, they should move the part-time art teacher up the list and include it in the cuts; and board members agreed.
Other cuts put on hold were secretaries at the middle and high schools, administrative assistant to the superintendent and taking kindergarten to half days. The fate of those changes depends on the outcome of the state budget, which is expected to be released about mid June. The district doesn't expect to receive an increase in funding.
In addition to the cuts, the board approved implementing the pay to participate program, in which students would pay a set fee to participate in extracurricular activities except band and art. The board removed band and art because a fine art credit is required for graduation.
Previously discussed fees were $100 for the first sport, $75 for the second and $50 for the third. The flat fee for participating in a school musical or play would be $50. Board members also had discussed placing an individual cap of $225 and a family cap of $450. However, no set fees were decided on Tuesday.
The crowd of about 35 staff members and residents made no comments during the meeting. After going into executive session for about 20 minutes to discuss employment and compensation of an employee, board members quickly read through and approved the list of cuts.
The $1.5 million reductions will offset a deficit for the next few years. Board members previously approved about $700,000 in cuts through attrition to prevent the deficit as early as next year.
Treasurer Tom Sommer has said the school system is spending about $1 million more than it's receiving in revenue each year. Revenue has stagnated in recent years as operating expenses continue to rise, he has said. Unless a levy is approved in the future, the board will need to make even deeper cuts.
Brown said he doesn't know when, but the district will need to make another levy attempt. The five year, combined 5-mill property, 1 percent earned income tax was defeated in last week's election 60 percent to 40 percent.

Approved cuts:
• Mobile learning devices program
• Busing to state minimum, which eliminates busing for high school students and limits all other busing to students who live beyond a two-mile radius of the school
• Part-time secretary at primary and intermediate buildings
• Vocational agriculture program
• Virtual learning academy (counselors would run the program
• Assistant director of bands position
• Library technician at middle/high school
• Part-time secretary at central office
• Latin program at the high school
• Gifted program
• Paraprofessionals at the primary and intermediate schools
• Business manager position; job will be amended
• Family consumer science at the high school
• Part time DIBELS
• Library technicians at the intermediate and primary.
• French at the middle and high school
• Part-time art at the middle and high school
• Athletic secretary
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