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Schools makes cuts

April 19, 2012
By Virginia Shank , Special to the Town Crier

Tom Sellers acknowledged that he and other district officials were uneasy during most of the school board's meeting on Monday, April 16.

Before dozens of residents and staff the school board voted to make cuts amounting to about $1 million including $700,000 in transportation - the hardest hit department.

Superintendent Vincent Colaluca said the move was an effort to comply with the state's mandate to reduce spending. He said the school district submitted the reduction plan in December and is now working to finalize it. He said the cuts, along with the additional money he hopes to generate by increasing the district's open enrollment students, are needed to make up for a reduction in state funding. The school district now accepts 500 open enrollment students, but is looking to increase that number to 700. The 200 extra students could bring in an additional $1 million to the school district.

"We're trying to deal with and offset more than $2 million we've lost in state funding," he explained. "This is an effort to avoid having the state come in and declare fiscal emergency over us. For years we have managed to operate and provide outstanding academics, programs and services to our students. We're not cutting programs, but we have had to make some hard choices about staffing."

The cuts take effect at the end of the school year.

Sellers noted some of the individuals whose positions were cut may return to the employee roster if the the district's enrollment numbers warrant it.

"I think you can see the nervousness of the board throughout this meeting," he remarked just before the meeting adjourned. He said the school district intends to seek additional money from taxpayers next year. All of the school district's levies add up to 54 mills, but the effective millage is only 26 mills because of changes in property values, which brings in about $20 million annually, he explained. He noted that the district operates on an annual budget of $45 million. He said district hasn't had a new or replacement levy since 1996.

"We've been surviving, but we've reached a point where changes have to be made," he added.

Among the cuts the school board agreed to a reduction in force, or a decrease in hours, impacting 41 bus driver positions. The superintendent explained some workers are upset because their daily hours have been cut to 3.5 hours from four hours, meaning they will lose certain benefits they must work four hours in order to receive.



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