Manatee teachers take brunt of proposed budget cuts

Manatee school board to vote Monday on 2 plans; one cuts $17.255M, another $11.255M

ataylor@bradenton.comJune 12, 2011 

BRADENTON -- Elementary school music, art and physical education teaching jobs will be eliminated for the coming school year if board members approve the proposed budget cut changes, according to school documents.

Board members will vote Monday on budget cut recommendations. Two plans -- one cutting $17.255 million and another eliminating $11.255 million -- have been submitted to board members by Superintendent Tim McGonegal.

Eliminating elementary school extracurricular activities teachers is just one of the proposed cuts. That cut affects about 35 teaching jobs in Manatee County. Eliminating those positions increases the total job cuts submitted to board members beyond 50. Teachers’ aides will run those classes, district officials say.

Other job cuts include a school psychologist, a social worker, secretaries, a construction services team, nine maintenance jobs and all the elementary school resource officers. Maintenance departments will be outsourced.

Each school principal must cut from their respective budgets. Elementary schools must eliminate $42,000 or $84,000 from their operational budgets, depending upon which plan is accepted. Middle schools face losing either $110,000 or $220,000. And high schools will lose either $88,000 or $176,000.

“I am going into Monday’s meeting expecting to have a discussion on the school superintendent’s recommendations,” board chairman Bob Gause said. “I want a sustainable budget.

“Specifically, I’m still opposing cuts to the classrooms.”

Employees also face two to 10 furlough days. Hospital home-bound students will no longer be guaranteed rides. The media budget will be cut $250,000 to $500,000, depending upon which plan is accepted. And teachers will bear the brunt of ongoing changes that will impact salaries.

“I believe that the degree of the budget cuts cannot be done without teachers bearing the brunt of the changes,” said Pat Barber, president of the Manatee Education Association. “But that has been happening in Manatee County since 2008.”

McGonegal’s recommended cuts were adjusted after the board voted on health insurance changes.

Payouts for sick leave of retiring employees were decreased. Health insurance premiums were increased. And experience-related salaries will no longer take place -- a move that changes the structure of how teachers are hired and paid.

“We now have a dilemma when we hire new teachers,” said Bruce Proud, business agent for Manatee Education Association.

This year, teachers with a year’s experience and no experience will receive the same wage. Next year, teachers who have two years’ experience and no experience could be hired for the same salary because of decisions recently approved by school board members.

“The longer it (the new salary change) goes on, the more problematic it becomes,” Proud said.

McGonegal disagrees, saying the financial decisions were made by a “forward-thinking board” that placed into consideration the country’s flailing economy.

“I think they are looking ahead at the economy of Florida,” he said.

The amount teachers pay for insurance has also been a critical issue with the district carrying a $10 million health insurance deficit. In August, employee-only annual insurance premiums will increase 19 percent, to $150 to $1,428 depending upon the benefits plan. Insurance for employees with families will increase annually as much as 75 percent. The cost ranges from $3,863 to $6,000.

McGonegal and his administrative staff say those increases were necessary due to the deficit.

“The district regrets that employees will have to make larger premium contributions to the fund; however, the district’s employees have benefited from comparatively lower employee-share premiums for years and now some of the losses to the self-insured fund must be recouped,” McGonegal said in his proposal.

The changes to teachers’ contracts are in the process of being finalized by district officials. After that, MEA members will vote on whether to ratify the contract for the 2010-11 school year. When asked how teachers fared in the school board member’s contractual decisions, Proud said teachers got the short end of the stick.

“I don’t believe you can classify this as coming out on top,” Proud said. “It’s not a positive aspect for teachers.”

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