Staff losing hours in school cutbacks

"For school district employees, numbers in the budget are affecting numbers in their bankbooks.The school board formally passed the district's 2000-2001 budget Thursday night, with staff cuts designed to make up for a projected million-dollar deficit. Administrators have blamed the budget shortfall on unexpectedly low enrollment, coupled with operating costs of Sakai Intermediate School and an overabundance of staff around the district.It's not the most enjoyable topic, said personnel director Ken Crawford.The district is compensated by the state for so many employees, and we are currently 35 classified staff and 15 certificated staff above what we are compensated for, he said.Sandy Van Eps, co-president of the classified staff's labor organization, questioned the logic of including overstaffing in deficit calculations.The district wouldn't have hired us if they didn't need us, she said.We've always been overloaded, we think it's good to provide as much support for schools as possible, so why all of a sudden is this considered part of a shortfall? Van Eps asked.The majority of cuts are falling on classified employees - including librarians, groundskeepers, secretaries and other support staff - but have not affected the salaries of teachers and other certificated staff, whose contracts cannot be changed after a May 15 deadline.Administrators are feeling the reductions in the form of a salary freeze. They will not receive an expected 3 percent pay raise, and principals have voluntarily given up 1 percent of an expected 4 percent salary increase.Across-the-board cutbacks required each school to do away with 5.4 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, as well as district-wide cuts in special education, the Title 1 reading program, custodial services, groundskeepers and bus mechanics.FTEs, however, represents hours, not individual jobs. One FTE equals 2080 hours a year, or the equivalent of one full-time employee, some of which will be compensated for by not hiring new employees for empty positions.Twenty-six district staff members will see a loss in hours due to the cuts, and three positions have been eliminated. It is expected that the three, including laid-off custodian Joe Rudy, will make up hours in already-vacant positions.I'm hoping to get some hours working as a security guard, Rudy said, referring to a position at the high school left open by a resignation. But if someone with more seniority from the union applies, they'll get the job and I'm not sure what I'll do.Instead of cutting large amounts, it's one half hour here, one half hour there, Crawford said. And we hope to make up most people's hours through attrition.Van Eps has noted dissent. Most employees are upset, she said. A loss of hours means a loss of wages.Despite passing the budget, school board officials will continue to make cuts throughout the year. The budget includes a 1.2 percent reserve, money not assigned to any specific expense. Bruce Weiland, school board president, described the reserve as our rainy day fund.Some districts run a budget reserve of up to 5 percent, Weiland said. And we'd all feel more comfortable if our reserve was up to at least 2 percent.Steve Rowley, district superintendent, emphasized the importance of rainy day money.We times get tough, we need a reserve, Rowley said. We are resolved to finding other ways to cut costs over the next month to get the balance up.We're not destitute, said Bainbridge High School Principal Dave Ellick. We're trying to squeeze as much as we can and make it work - but I may need some help from (children's literature wizard) Harry Potter. "

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