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School budget deficit could swell to $4 million

In last night’s school board budget meeting, yet another unexpected issue was raised in the form of a message from the Department of Education stating that newly elected governor, Bob McDonnell, on Feb. 8, recommended “deferring use of the recalculated composite index for 2010-2012 until fiscal year 2012.”
Instead, the governor wants to “maintain the use of the 2008-2010 composite index” and, as budget director Chris Stafford explained, this will mean nearly an additional $402,000 added to the deficit, bringing the school budget shortfall to about $4 million.
The board looked at four major areas of concern last night: Reduction of personnel through early retirement or extended work plan; reduction in force policy; consolidation of the middle schools; and insurance premiums and coverage.
Joe Makolandra pointed out that under the early retirement plan (as proposed), the budget would gain $617,000 if the retired teachers were replaced and not paid sick leave. If no replacements were hired, the savings would be almost $3 million.
There were a handful of teachers in the audience last night. One of them, Shannon Turner, a fourth-grade teacher at Riverlawn and president of PCEA, commented that she was concerned with the proposal as “people have planned for retirement and they assumed they would be eligible for the extended work plan with paid unused sick leave.”
She added, “Employees have saved these days, often working when they didn’t feel their best, knowing that they would receive the benefit of being paid for these days when they retired.”
Makolandra also presented the board policy on reduction in professional staff work force (RIF) “when there is an excess of these employees resulting in abolishment, or change in positions because of lack of funds, insufficient student enrollment, deletion of programs or organizational restructuring.” The issue was who goes first? Employees on annual contracts shall be laid off before employees on continuing contract, and employees who are not endorsed.
Part-time employees or substitutes are not eligible under this procedure.
In continuing the quest for where else to cut costs, Ronnie Nichols and Joe Makolandra took turns explaining the projected savings in combining the middle schools.
By eliminating professionals and classifieds from one school, the projected savings is around $878,000.
Makolandra noted that some teachers may be moved to elementary level.
Pulaski Middle School Principal Michael Perry , admitted he was concerned about the proposed consolidation but stated that it is too early to think about making any plans regarding his own position. “The school system is like a corporation,” he added resignedly. “They (the board) will decide what’s best for it (the school system).”
On the insurance issue, kindergarten teacher Angela Clevinger and PCEA vice president, told the board that she was happy when the Home Savings Accounts (HSA) was “front loaded” because it was “less for my family to pay medical bills.”
Now, she says, the insurance company (HSA) is trying to keep their costs low. “Used to be about keeping people healthy; now it’s all about money,” she added.
Turner, is also not in favor of being offered only the HSA plan, and was concerned about the proposed self-insurance.
In another matter, Tim Barnes covered the issue of Blackberrys and cell phone use and made recommendations on the best plan to adopt.
No date was set for another budget meeting, but a regular school board meeting is scheduled for today at 4:30 p.m.

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School budget deficit could swell to $4 million

In last night’s school board budget meeting, yet another unexpected issue was raised in the form of a message from the Department of Education stating that newly elected governor, Bob McDonnell, on Feb. 8, recommended “deferring use of the recalculated composite index for 2010-2012 until fiscal year 2012.”
Instead, the governor wants to “maintain the use of the 2008-2010 composite index” and, as budget director Chris Stafford explained, this will mean nearly an additional $402,000 added to the deficit, bringing the school budget shortfall to about $4 million.
The board looked at four major areas of concern last night: Reduction of personnel through early retirement or extended work plan; reduction in force policy; consolidation of the middle schools; and insurance premiums and coverage.
Joe Makolandra pointed out that under the early retirement plan (as proposed), the budget would gain $617,000 if the retired teachers were replaced and not paid sick leave. If no replacements were hired, the savings would be almost $3 million.
There were a handful of teachers in the audience last night. One of them, Shannon Turner, a fourth-grade teacher at Riverlawn and president of PCEA, commented that she was concerned with the proposal as “people have planned for retirement and they assumed they would be eligible for the extended work plan with paid unused sick leave.”
She added, “Employees have saved these days, often working when they didn’t feel their best, knowing that they would receive the benefit of being paid for these days when they retired.”
Makolandra also presented the board policy on reduction in professional staff work force (RIF) “when there is an excess of these employees resulting in abolishment, or change in positions because of lack of funds, insufficient student enrollment, deletion of programs or organizational restructuring.” The issue was who goes first? Employees on annual contracts shall be laid off before employees on continuing contract, and employees who are not endorsed.
Part-time employees or substitutes are not eligible under this procedure.
In continuing the quest for where else to cut costs, Ronnie Nichols and Joe Makolandra took turns explaining the projected savings in combining the middle schools.
By eliminating professionals and classifieds from one school, the projected savings is around $878,000.
Makolandra noted that some teachers may be moved to elementary level.
Pulaski Middle School Principal Michael Perry , admitted he was concerned about the proposed consolidation but stated that it is too early to think about making any plans regarding his own position. “The school system is like a corporation,” he added resignedly. “They (the board) will decide what’s best for it (the school system).”
On the insurance issue, kindergarten teacher Angela Clevinger and PCEA vice president, told the board that she was happy when the Home Savings Accounts (HSA) was “front loaded” because it was “less for my family to pay medical bills.”
Now, she says, the insurance company (HSA) is trying to keep their costs low. “Used to be about keeping people healthy; now it’s all about money,” she added.
Turner, is also not in favor of being offered only the HSA plan, and was concerned about the proposed self-insurance.
In another matter, Tim Barnes covered the issue of Blackberrys and cell phone use and made recommendations on the best plan to adopt.
No date was set for another budget meeting, but a regular school board meeting is scheduled for today at 4:30 p.m.

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