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School Board must reduce expenses

May 24, 2002|By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

With the exception of instructional programs, Washington County Board of Education members said everything in the budget stands a chance of being cut to fill a $1.5 million hole anticipated for the next fiscal year.

"We don't want to impact instruction," School Board member Roxanne Ober said. "Other than that, we're looking at everything."

Ober has said the board would have to decide whether it can afford to give its employees pay raises that total $3.9 million, as proposed in the fiscal year 2003 school budget.

Interim Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan has said more job eliminations and consolidations are being considered, as well as moving to a four-day work week over the summer months to save money.

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Employees who work during the summer, including central office administrators and support personnel, would work four 10-hour days and school buildings would be closed every Friday.

The employees would not receive pay cuts by working four days a week.

Support personnel are employees such as secretaries, instructional assistants and custodians.

Ober and School Board member Paul Bailey, who are both on the board's finance committee, said the school system would save a total of $50,000 in utility costs by shutting down the buildings one day a week.

They said summer school programs would have to be adjusted and the hours might be extended during the week to accommodate buildings being closed on Fridays.

Bailey said summer school usually runs from about 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Claude Sasse, president of the Washington County Teachers Association, said the association supports the buildings being closed on Fridays during the summer.

"We certainly want to help out the school system in trying to save some money," Sasse said.

Many of the school system's 1,450 teachers are off during the summer, with the exception of those who teach the summer school programs.

On Tuesday, the School Board eliminated two principal positions and consolidated four central office administrator posts as cost-saving measures. The school system may save more than $100,000 by those moves.

Bailey said he hopes the board can avoid cutting any more positions.

"That is one area I want to try to preserve as much as possible," Bailey said.

He said the School Board might focus on cutting smaller items - those costing around $20,000 to $30,000.

School officials have said they're facing the cuts as a result of not receiving the full $5.78 million increase sought from the Washington County Commissioners for the coming fiscal year's budget. The county has said it will give the board about a $2 million increase over the $68.3 million it already contributes to the school budget.

The board also will receive an increase of about $2.2 million from the state, leaving the $1.5 million shortfall.

The commissioners have said a tight budget year and lower than usual revenues put constraints on how much they could give the School Board and other county agencies. The board's proposed operating budget for next year is $132.8 million.

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