03-10-04 Parkway board may lay off five, save $650,000
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03-10-04 Parkway board may lay off five, save $650,000

By Betty Lawrence

ROCKFORD — A list of 19 proposed reductions that would save more than $650,000 for Parkway Local Schools was unveiled at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
     The proposal includes laying off five teachers (three elementary, one music and one business) and one administrator. Two teachers who are retiring this year, language arts teacher Eileen Hurless and industrial arts teacher Galen McMichael, also would not be replaced.
     Additionally, one assistant coach from selected sports (as many as six) would be eliminated.
     If the reduction plan is approved by the board, affected staff will be notified by April 30, Superintendent Doug Karst announced at the board meeting.
     The school district’s five-year financial forecast indicates that although the budget will be balanced at $1.4 million this year, the figures drop to $592,000 in 2005 and then go in the red. Projections in 2008 show final numbers at negative $1.6 million.
     Unforeseen funding cuts at the state level, a decrease in student enrollment (state funding is paid on a per pupil basis) and ever-increasing insurance costs have had a crippling effect on the school budget, administrators have said.
     “We overspent $450,000 last year and this year we are projected to overspend $400,000. The current budget projection estimates the difference to be nearly $900,000 for next year. Our biggest expense is personnel. It makes up around 80 percent of our budget,” Karst said, in justifying the proposed staffing reductions.
     The board has met in lengthy executive sessions on at least two occasions since its February meeting to hammer out the list of layoffs. They also held a 40-minute executive session Tuesday.
     Parkway Education Association (PEA) President Anita Morton, a high school science teacher, said she is concerned about the staffing cuts. She attended the meeting, along with about 30 other people, mostly teachers.
     “I’m aware all schools are being hit, but I can’t see saving money by eliminating positions. When you do that, you are eliminating the quality of education too,” Morton said. “I don’t feel we’re nowhere near the financial hurting of other school districts, and I still want to know, what are we saving money for and where are we overspending it at?”
     Board members did not answer Morton’s question.
     “We’ve been told the district is overspending, but what are we overspending on? Our teachers don’t know where they stand. For some, their lives and careers are being altered and they’re in a tailspin,” Morton continued.
     Many of the teachers at the meeting had in hand copies of the district’s financial report for February that indicates a $2.1 million ending cash balance.
     “After looking at the financial report, we want to know why is there a crisis when the report shows $2.1 million in the bank?” Morton also asked the board.
     Karst said the current cash balance is due to property taxes being collected in February, which shows up in the current financial report. The school then uses that money for operational expenses throughout the year.
     Other budget reductions include a freeze on the administrators salaries, a freeze on classified staff salaries, elimination of one bus route (if possible), elimination of summer student help and a raise in cafeteria prices by 25 cents per meal.
     Also, all teachers eligible for retirement received retirement incentive letters in February offering $7,500 and their normal severance. The $7,500 figure is a negotiated amount that already is in the teachers’ contract, and severance is based on unused sick leave, Karst explained.
     Only two teachers, Hurless and McMichael, opted to retire.
     In budget reduction actions already undertaken, the school’s driver education program has been eliminated and fees for summer physical education for high school credit will be more than doubled. Discretionary spending also has been halted.
     “This has not been easy for the board, administration or you. Between now and April there will be time for discussion of the proposed cuts and how we can save money and not impact so many people. It’s unfortunate that any school district has to go through this,” Karst said. “Remember, these cuts are proposals and they can be changed.”
     In other action, the board:
      Entered into an agreement with Tuttle Bostleman for construction manager services for the locally funded initiative portion of the district’s new building project.
      Learned the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) held a pre-bid session for contractors last week on the educational complex construction project with bids planned to be opened March 18. A special meeting will be held March 24 to award some of the contracts.
      Learned there will be a groundbreaking ceremony for the new school on April 23.


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