School positions, days cut in Union

By Dick Mason, The Observer June 06, 2012 01:04 pm

The Union School District is poised to cut four school days and about three positions to save money.

The jobs and school days are part of an approximately $250,000 reduction plan the Union School District’s budget committee voted Tuesday to recommend to the Union School Board for adoption.

The budget formally recommended that the district adopt a total 2012-13 budget of $4.374 million, one about the same as the present year’s budget.

The budget cuts are needed because of rising expenses and a revenue shortfall brought on by declining enrollment and reduced state funding due to the poor economy. 

The budget committee is proposing the following personnel reductions:

• one half of a kindergarten teaching position. Savings: $24,418 in salary and benefits. The position was originally cut a year ago but was added back late last summer because Union’s kindergarten enrollment was higher than expected.

• the district’s media center-librarian position. Savings: $80,912 in salary and benefits. The school district would continue to offer library services despite this cut, said Union School District Superintendent Jon St. Germaine.

• a special education aide position. Savings: $34,783 in salary and benefits. 

• the district’s band coach position. Savings: $2,500 now paid as a stipend.

• a third of a Spanish teaching position. Savings: $21,418 in salary and benefits.

Cutting the four school days would save the district about $50,000. 

School days could not be cut without the approval of the district’s teachers and classified staff.

St. Germaine said representatives of the teachers and classified staff unions have told him their members would agree to allow the four school days to be cut.

“I’m so impressed and grateful,” St. Germaine said. “Everyone in the district will be giving up four days of pay.”

The superintendent said cutting four school days would cost teachers an average of $1,200 a year. 

St. Germaine said the district’s administrators would also lose four days of pay, if the days are cut. 

The proposal the budget committee passed also calls for the high school wrestling program to be cut to club status. This would save the district $8,000. The wrestling program would have a volunteer head coach if it is reduced to club status. 

The recommended budget also calls for reductions in expenditures for textbooks, computer leases, utilities, science computers, maintenance equipment and computer software, which would save a total of about $52,000.

Several budget committee members expressed concern about the proposed cut of the Spanish teaching position. They said they did not think it would be right to cut academics instead of athletics and activities. 

The Spanish position cut would impact an educator who is shared with the Cove School District. The educator teaches three classes a day at Cove and three classes a day at Union High School.

Should the individual’s position be cut, the educator would teach just two Spanish classes at UHS. The individual would continue teaching Spanish I and II but not Spanish III.

Beth Stewart, a budget committee and school board member, is among those who spoke in support of the Spanish teaching position. Stewart said that about $11,000 of the money needed to avoid reducing the Spanish position could be obtained by moving junior high sports to club status. Junior high programs would then have volunteer coaches.

The budget committee asked the school board to consider ways that the Spanish teaching position could be restored. 

The board will discuss such options when it meets June 27 to vote on adoption of the budget.