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Berkeley Co. Schools seek ways to cut costs

Superintendent Manny P. Arvon says part-time positions will be reviewed

May 08, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Positions that are considered luxuries in Berkeley County's school system are being reviewed as part of cost-cutting measures to offset an expected decrease of about $1.5 million in tax revenue, Superintendent Manny P. Arvon said last week.

"We absolutely will be looking at all of the part-time employees," Arvon said.

Arvon said any reductions that are made will not affect students and he does not anticipate any layoffs of full-time employees.

"We're not looking at cutting programs as far as our students are concerned," Arvon said.

Opportunities to consolidate programs to one location to eliminate the need for duplicate staffing might be feasible, Arvon said.

Berkeley County Schools' budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year will be presented Friday at noon to the Berkeley County Board of Education.

A public hearing on the budget will be May 24 at 6 p.m. at the school district's administration offices at 401 S. Queen St.

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While belt-tightening is necessary, Arvon said the first-ever decrease in tax revenue generated by a voter-approved excess levy in his tenure also affords administrators an opportunity review how everything is being done.

"We've been very good stewards of taxpayer dollars and we have been able to manage," Arvon said. "We are approaching this year with the greatest abundance of caution."

County voters have regularly approved the excess levy to support the school system's operation for more than 50 years and it is up for renewal next year, Arvon said.

Voters in September 2009 approved a school bond levy, but only for capital improvements such as the new Spring Mills high school, which will be built in a few years.

The excess levy money generated has been used to fill a gap in funding for special education, which is not adequately funded through the state's school aid formula, Arvon said. The levy also provides supplemental pay for teachers and had typically increased by $2 million or $3 million annually, Arvon said.

"We hope this is not a trend," Arvon said.

With significant budget cuts happening in neighboring states, Arvon said the school district expects to be able to get more certified applicants for teaching jobs, many in special education, that are now filled with permanent substitutes.

With enrollment now more than 17,000 students, the state's second largest school district currently employs about 2,500 regular, full-time staff, Arvon said.

Combined with permanent substitutes and part-time staff, the school district has between 3,400 and 3,500 employees on its payroll.

Arvon said the school district's administration has little flexibility in making a number of hiring and firing decisions because of personnel rules in state code.

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