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Smaller staff in schools saves money

Teri Vance
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

The Carson City School District employs 59 fewer people this year than it did in 2003, a key reason why the district has managed to save about $11.5 million, officials say.

In 2003, the district had 961 employees. There are 902 this year.

“The one thing that has positioned us to have a healthy ending-fund balance is our attention to staffing within our organization,” said Superintendent Richard Stokes.

Stokes said enrollment, which had been steadily growing for more than a decade, began to decline in 2003.

“We looked at the staffing ratio we had in terms of students to employees,” he said. “Using some projections of enrollment, we tried to predict how many fewer students we had and were going to have, and we tried to adjust our staff accordingly.”

The process began when 21 positions were cut in March of 2003. Ten of those were vacant positions that were not filled and 11 were layoffs.

Seven library aides were cut, two classroom aides and one music teacher.

Stokes, who was the associate superintendent of human resources at the time, explained that 87 percent of district spending was in personnel costs.

“We knew that’s where we needed to look to decide some reductions,” he said at the time.

Those were the last of the layoffs, however.

“As people either retired or resigned, we tried to adjust our staffing so we didn’t have any more layoffs,” he said. “It was a kinder, gentler way of dealing with changes in enrollment.”

This year, the cuts will affect the district office as well.

Longtime employees Mike Mitchell, director of operations, and Joan Ogilvie, an account technician who handled payroll and the retirement benefits program, retired.

Their duties will be absorbed by existing employees in the district.

As the legislative session approaches with the promise of more cuts to come, possibly up to 34 percent, Stokes said other positions or programs could be in jeopardy.

For now, though, he said the elimination of positions has not exceeded the drop in enrollment.

“It’s been a balance,” he said.

The one exception, he said, would be reductions in maintenance or groundskeeping staff.

“We still have the same square footage of grass to mow and the same square footage of schools to maintain and clean.”

Mark Korinek, the operations manager for the school district who will be taking over some of Mitchell’s duties, said his staff was adequate.

He said they have been able to maintain an industry standard of one custodian per 25,000 square feet. Substitutes fill in when there is a lack of permanent employees.

“I think we have enough people to get the job done,” he said. “We just have to kind of tighten our belts and do a few more things, each of us,” he said.

But he’s not sure where this legislative session will leave them.

“Only time will tell,” Korinek said.

– Contact reporter Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1272.