MANATEE -- School board members faced the harsh news Monday -- 19 staff job cuts, 10-day furloughs for some employees and eliminating 50 full-timers and hiring independent contractors.
That was Superintendent Tim McGonegal’s recommendations for budget cuts for the 2011-2012 school year.
McGonegal presented two budget plans to the board -- one plan that would cut $12.1 million and the other that would eliminate $16.91 million out of the operational budget. Each plan would bring the school district down to its lowest per student funding since the 2002-2003 school year. Legislation has reduced per student funding by $542.03 or 7.96 percent. Board members are not expected to vote on McGonegal’s recommendations until June 13.
“I’ve been in public education for 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” McGonegal told board members.
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The $12.1 million plan calls for a district reorganization that would save $1.5 million by eliminating positions such as a school psychologist, social worker, secretaries, a construction services team, nine maintenance jobs and all elementary school resource officers. That plan also calls for some positions such as those in the maintenance department to be outsourced. Each principal in the district would be required to cut a certain amount from their respective budgets. Elementary schools would have to cut $30,000, middle schools would have to eliminate $42,000 and high schools would have to cut $88,000.
Administrators, managers and supervisors would be required to take either five or six furlough days depending upon their salaries. School principals, assistant principals, teachers and all other managers would take between two and three furlough days. Lower paid employees such as teacher aides, clerks and secretaries would be exempt from furloughs under the $12.1 million plan.
School board Chairman Robert Gause said he didn’t agree with treating employees differently depending on positions or pay grades.
“Philosophically, I have a problem with that,” Gause said about the differing treatment. “Each employee in this district serves an important function to the delivery of the education of our students. Rather than furlough days, I’d support a pay cut.”
Gause said he wanted fairness and equity for all employees.
As McGonegal presented each recommendation, all eyes watched the monitors detailing his suggestions. One district employee whispered “Oh my God” after hearing about the number of jobs being eliminated. Then, McGonegal presented the $16.9 million recommendation. He said this plan was being suggested to set up a cash reserve for the health insurance fund, which has nearly a $10 million deficit.
The $16.9 million plan calls for additional financial cuts from schools. Elementary schools would have to cut $60,000, middle schools $84,000 and high schools $176,000. Furlough days would increase by as much as 10 for some district employees. Other employees' furlough days would double from the amount suggested in the $12.10million plan. However, the lower paid employees would have to take at least two furlough days under the larger cuts.
McGonegal said, “This $17 million cut is difficult.”
To avoid the $16.9 million plan, McGonegal recommended the school district switch from self insurance to a fully insured health plan.
School board members and residents voiced their opinions about the plan
Board Vice Chairman Harry Kinnan said he would not support anything that adversely affects teachers’ pay.
“I’m not in this business to cut teachers’ pay. That goes against my core values,” Kinnan said.
Board member Barbara Harvey said she has heard from many people leading up to Monday night’s meeting.
“The phone calls I received, 90 percent understood there might be a reduction in salary,” Harvey said. “But they all had one question: ‘Will I have a job?’ What I’m hearing from you is that there will be no layoffs.”
McGonegal told her no -- not under the $12.1 million plan.
Elementary school teacher Starloe Galletta was concerned that the school resource officers may be eliminated from elementary schools.
“I really believe in our school resource officers because I’ve seen them change lives,” she said.
Manatee County resident Peggy Martin, who was on the district’s budget committee, said she didn’t totally agree with McGonegal’s plans.
“I didn’t see too much cutting from the top,” she said.