Mar 28, 2012 Neil Benjamin Jr. Uncategorized
On March 13, Marcellus Central School District Superintendent Dr. Craig J. Tice handed out 47 reduction-in-force letters to instructors whose positions could be cut in the 2012-13 school year. On top of that, nine more letters were handed out to teacher assistants, bringing the total number of possible cuts to 56 people.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Tice spoke about the difficulties associated with drafting a balanced budget with declining state and federal aid.
“We got feedback from the community and it was loud and clear that the people wants to have even cuts across the board instead of just cutting heavily from one area,” he said. “It’s hard to know where we need to cut from without knowing the entire budget. For us, we try to develop well-rounded kids by focusing on every aspect of education, so cutting from all-around makes a lot of sense.”
Tice, who is in his sixth year as superintendent after two years as assistant superintendent, said the 56 letters allow the district to work backward from the worst-case scenario, and that the past shows not all letters will culminate in reduction of duties or complete loss of job.
“Even one job loss tears at the fabric of our tight-knit community of learning and collaborating,” Tice said in a press release. “Unfortunately, the district is forced into the unenviable position of trying to do more with less, as state aid continues to shrink and costs rise. These are difficult and keenly felt decisions for us.”
He likened the cuts to an airplane that needs an emergency landing.
“We have to bring the plane down very slowly,” he said.
The board of education isn’t scheduled to adopt the 2012-13 budget until April 20, but the early notices came because the teachers’ union contract states the district must notify faculty of the proposed cuts by March 15. Tice said there may be a special meeting on April 17 that will act as a public forum. The next two scheduled board meetings are April 3 and 23. On March 29 at the high school, there will be a meeting that is open to the public. On April 2, there will be another forum in the Driver Middle School Cafeteria, also at 7 p.m.
The district is facing about a $2.8 million budget gap. This year’s budget is $29,993,883; the district has not yet proposed a budget for 2012-13.
“That number [$2.8 million] is also a worst-case scenario,” Tice said. “We’re hopeful that the number is reduced significantly through taxes and federal and state money.” He added he’s not sure the exact amount the school will receive through grants, but: “This is our first year without guaranteed federal support.”
Recently, a lot of cuts were made to behind-the-scenes positions that the average citizen wouldn’t necessarily notice. Tice used an example in sports, saying scorekeepers at games are now parent-volunteers instead of paid workers.
This doesn’t necessarily mean 56 positions will be eliminated. In 2011-12, 48 people received the same letter, but just 11.7 full-time positions were slashed. The year before, 46 got the letter, but only 3.3 full-time positions were cut.
Tice also stated the district will have to raise more revenue through property taxes, as well as decrease costs through staff and program costs. It will also have to dip into reserve money set aside for unemployment, retirement contributions and other staff-related costs.
The letters drafted are handed out by Tice. He said for the last three years he’s been doing it that.
“The last thing you want for those people is for it all to be a surprise,” he said. “Handing out those letters is a very unenviable position, but it has to be done given our resources.”
For more information and to fill out a survey on the budget, please visit marcellusschools.org.
“We don’t want to make these decisions in a vacuum,” Tice concluded.
Neil Benjamin Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.