Teacher layoffs in budget proposal
Including a nearly $3,000 salary cut for himself and plans to lay off about 30 employees, Superintendent Richard Stokes outlined the initial budget proposal during Tuesday’s school board meeting to fill an anticipated $5.5 million shortfall.
“It’s difficult when you’re trying to cut that amount of money because in order to get there, there are people involved and jobs that are going to be lost,” he said. “I know so many of our people, I can put faces with many of the people. That’s the hard part.”
Even with the proposed cuts, Stokes said, the budget remains $1.57 million short, about the cost of 22 full-time employees.
He said he hopes employees will take pay cuts to absorb the shortfall, which would need to be decided during collective bargaining with teachers and classified employee associations.
“We’re hoping to talk with our employee groups to see if there’s any appetite to talk about any cost reductions that might happen through salaries and benefits,” Stokes said.
Facing a combination of reduced revenues and increasing costs, the Carson City School District has relied on its budget reserves to balance the budget for the past several years.
However, the board approved a $59.5 million budget in May, which drew about $5.2 million from its reserves, dwindling the fund.
Last month, the school board hosted two community workshops seeking the public’s advice on how to cut costs.
“For much of the fall, we have been talking about our budget,” Stokes said. “We asked the public to give us ideas as to how we might modify our operations to reduce our budgets.”
The initial proposal, presented during Tuesday’s school board meeting was taken from suggestions from the community, staff and administrators, Stokes said.
Nearly 50 teachers and other school employees attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Teacher Linda Csiga said she didn’t see her suggestion to cut the Success for All reading program and its facilitators taken into account.
“I think that could save quite a bit of money,” she said.
Stokes said he considered the program an asset to the district.
While the budget called for significant reduction of staff throughout the district, Stokes also presented a draft for possible buy-out system to provide a $10,000 incentive for teachers and other staff to retire.
The budget proposal called for reducing salaries of district supervisors – known as “at-will” employees – by five days, including his own.
Trustee Barbara Myers suggested even deeper cuts in that area, calling for the cutting of one of two associate superintendent positions.
“I think we need to lose one associate superintendent,” she said. “We have too many for the size of our district.”
All elementary school counselors would be eliminated as would three custodians and an assortment of other teachers and staff throughout the district.
Seven teacher positions would be eliminated by increasing the student-to-teacher ratio in first through third grades 22-to-1.
Librarians would become classified employees rather than teachers, an idea Ananda Campbell, librarian at Carson Middle School opposes. Holding two master’s degrees, she said, she is a highly-qualified media specialist.
“I do more than check out books,” she said. “You need a teacher in there.”
Athletes would be required to pay $25 per sport to participate, with a $75 cap. Middle school athletic teams would be limited to competing in the area from Fallon to Truckee.
Field trips would be eliminated, and other travel expenses reduced.
The proposed budget also included to spending increases: Two elementary school vice principals – to cover each school – and a counselor at Pioneer High School.
Stokes said the vice principals, one of which would not be paid for through the general fund, would help fill the void left by the elimination of the counselors.
The Pioneer High School counselor was recommended through the strategic plan and also will act as the Community Partner Coordinator for the school district.
Trustee Ron Swirczek said the coordinator should not have to split duties.
“This doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. “This is a position that should not be half time, This is a main event.”
The proposal also would change the scope of responsibilities for teachers as all paid lunch and recess duty aides would be eliminated.
Stokes will bring a revised version of the budget back to the board during its Nov. 27 meeting. He hopes to present a final version on Dec. 11.
“We want to leave plenty of time for people who will be affected to start making plans,” he said. “We want to give people enough time to react.”
Trustee Lynette Conrad sympathized with employees.
“You’re all important,” she said. “This is dreadful. I don’t like any of it. It’s palatable, but it’s still very, very painful.”