06/25/04 — School cuts coming? Superintendent says funding order will cause reductions

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School cuts coming? Superintendent says funding order will cause reductions

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 25, 2004 2:02 PM

The Wayne County superintendent of schools said today that a requirement to raise teacher supplemental pay will lead to cuts in programs and teachers.

Superintendent Steven Taylor said that if the request is implemented, the school board will be forced to cut $1.4 million in personnel and programs.

Another $300,000 in cuts would be needed to fund increased supplements for certified support staff that was not included in the commissioner action, but which the Board of Education believes should be included, Dr. Taylor said.

"This would be on top of the impacted programs and 58 positions cut over the last two years that have not been restored to date," he said. "Further cuts to administration or the fund balance are not available to offset this cost."

The school board's request to the commissioners included a 5 percent increase, or $762,924, which has been done in previous years. That amount, Taylor said, was never intended to be used for teacher supplements since it was needed to maintain programs and personnel.

The schools had also asked that teacher supplements be raised from 3.5 percent to 6 percent and asked for additional money to cover that.

But on Tuesday, the commissioners said that the schools would have to make do with the 5 percent increase in funding and would also have to raise the teacher pay to 6.5 percent, with the stipulation that the money come from the school system.

Taylor called the commissioners' response unexpected.

"With the careful attention and diligence that had been given to the schools' budgeting process, it was hoped that the Board of County Commissioners would have" fully funded the request, he said.

Taylor said the commissioners' move means the Board of Education will now have to explore ways to overcome the resulting deficit.

Taylor said that for the past two years, the schools have had to cut $3 million from their budget. He also said that for the last four years, the school system has not received full funding from the state for being a low-income, or "low wealth," county. He said that has resulted in the loss of more than $1 million.

'While this money could not have been used for teacher supplements, it could have been used for locally paid teacher positions, materials, and supplies which would have freed up local money that could have been used for increased teacher supplements," Taylor said. "The county commissioners have not been able to make up the difference with lost funds from 'low wealth' to the schools."

The additional state money will be received again in 2004-2005, he said. The Board of Education has approved using the money for a variety of programs as well as three positions.

Taylor also said there has been a faulty perception for years that the central office is top-heavy with administrators and that millions of dollars would be available if some of the positions were reduced.

He said the administrators are required to do many tasks and handle several areas of responsibility that in some districts are handled by far more personnel.

Taylor said he expects the Board of Education will gather the necessary information and review all sides of the issues, with the goal of reaching a compromise.

"Both the Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners agree that increasing teacher supplements is important," he said.

"However, disagreement over the funding needed to operate the schools effectively and efficiently can be overcome, with meeting the needs of students being front and center in the discussion.

"It is hoped that both boards can resolve the differences in the budget in order to build upon the progress the schools are making annually."

County commissioners, however, have said that the schools have the money to pay for the supplements and that not increasing the pay could lead to the loss of the $760,000 increase that the county is scheduled to give the schools.

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