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No consolidation, no salary cuts

The Pulaski County School Board heard the final budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2010-11 last night, and while the cuts still go very deep, the results were not as dire as first expected.
No consolidation of the county’s middle schools were recommended, nor were salary reductions or furloughs to employees. Both items were hot button issues facing the school board.
The school district’s operating budget, which is $42.9 million, is anticipating a decrease of $4.9 million in state funds.
The deficit is expected to be offset in some way by the county’s proposed four cent real estate tax increase, which would result in over $1 million in revenue for the school system. Another $65,500 is expected to help offset the deficit through an increase in joint services reinbursement.
That left the school system with a $3.8 million revenue shortfall.
Chipping away at the deficit will come in the form of alterations to the Virginia Retirement System, which will save over $1.1 million, as well as through the elimination of 60 positions.
Major actions and assumptions in the proposed budget include:
• No consolidation of middle schools,
• No salary reductions or furloughs for employees,
• Approval of a proposed four cent real estate tax increase for schools,
• County approves payment of retiree sick leave from its funds,
• Offering of only one health insurance plan,
• 10 percent reduction to School Board allocation of school site-based funds,
• Elimination of Middle School resource officers,
• 25 percent reduction in special allocations for art, music, physical education and media at the high school level,
• Reduce six Southwest Virginia Governor’s School seats,
• Relocation of the School Board offices from the Allen building,
• and the continuation of the Rosetta Stone program.
"But it’s important to look at what is not included in this budget proposal," stated director of human resources Joe Makolandra. "We do not reduce educators at the elementary level, we do not reduce music and arts at the middle school level."
Of the 60 positions to be eliminated, 27 of those positions are expected to be teachers.
Para educators as well as school security officers at the high school level also find themselves on the chopping block.
The elimination of the school security officers may be a sticking point for some members of the board.
"It’s imperative that we provide safety and security in the schools," stated board member Dr. Rodell Cruise.
Nothing, however, is set in stone.
"Once we start with the Reduction in Force, it takes on a life of its own and will be looked at again," Makolandra explained. "There’s going to be a lot of shuffling going on after this."
The job cuts may also be offset by expected retirements. Makolandra cautioned the board to not rely on them.
"If you think that the retirees are gonna take care of this, that’s not going to happen," said Makolandra.
The board has until April 8 to approve a budget and present it to the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors.

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