The board eliminated 12 Reading Recovery specialists and 15 differentiation specialists Monday night, but voted to use the federal jobs stimulus money to save nearly all other jobs that were proposed to be cut.
In a 4-3 decision, the board voted to reinstate the jobs that Supt. John Harper had as a way to erase the district’s $6.7 million budget deficit.
According to Harper’s original proposal, 112 jobs would be eliminated, including instructional technology specialists, deans, secretaries and nurses.
Harper and the district administration also recommended using a $5.7 million grant from the federal education jobs bill for salaries and the resulting unbudgeted and local funds generated from the grant to pay down a land debt, which would save the district money in the future.
The district’s financial advisers are predicting budget deficits through at least 2016, and using federal money to save jobs now could mean a larger future deficit.
Jobs cut Monday include 12 Reading Recovery specialists, who assist elementary students with one-on-one intense reading help. The district has been in the process of transitioning to a new program called Guided Reading Plus, in which reading specialists work with small groups of students. The cuts saved about $805,000.
Also eliminated were 15 differentiation specialists who help gifted students. Like Reading Recovery, the district is transitioning to a new model of providing accelerated curriculum at the elementary school level. The cuts saved about $1 million.
The board also approved a triple-tier busing system that, in turn, changes schools hours at a savings of about $600,000; approved 5 percent budget cuts to departmental and schools’ budgets at a savings of $356,000, and said that any vacancies that arise will become part of the reduction process.
Board members Stuart Bledsoe, Michelle Smith, Rod Westfall and Roger Bonuchi voted yes for the changes; board members Eric Gallt, Michael Kelly and Dave Obrzut voted no.
Gallt said this is the second year the board has failed to act on the administration’s budget cut recommendations and the deficit is continuing to grow. He said the $5.7 million in stimulus funds could have helped put the district on better financial footing, which would have saved more jobs in the long run.
The taxpayers will be asked to fund the decisions the board could not make, he said.
“I believe this is going to be a sad day for the district,” Gallt said.
Obrzut said that based on the state’s poor record of providing effective funding for school districts, he does not believe the district will see any new money anytime soon.
“I’m in favor of the long-term stability of the district,” he said. “I do not want to see anyone lose a job but the financial hardship we are in now calls for drastic measures.”
Even though many jobs were saved Monday, it may be only for one year as the federal grant money is a one-time non-renewable revenue source.
Board members cautioned that the future still looks bleak.
“There was no victory here tonight,” Bledsoe said.