School district slashes 22 jobs

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More cutting likely to come

The Oak Harbor School Board Monday night eliminated 22 workers in an effort to resolve a $2 million budget shortfall for the 2008-2009 school year.

Kids will have less help available to them in the classroom, the buildings might be a little messier and the grounds a little less pristine as a result of the action.

The board approved laying off 22 support staff, which includes instructional assistants, custodians and grounds workers.

Cuts do not include administrators, which left at lease one school board members questioning priorities.

Staff learned of the layoffs Friday and Human Resources Director Mellody Matthes briefed the school board Monday night. The move set off a big job shuffle as senior support staff represented by the PSE union will bid on remaining jobs. Available positions will be posted next week, and staff can bid on multiple positions. Matthes said she hopes to start filling positions in early June and have them all filled by September in order to retain good employees.

The latest cutbacks don’t include the transportation department.

Teaching positions are also at risk, although none were officially cut Monday night. Currently eight teaching jobs are slated for elimination, which will be accomplished through attrition. Five of those positions were cut because enrollment is projected to decline by 100 students next year and the other three were short-term, temporary hires.

School board member Corey Johnson questioned whether there will be any cutbacks at the administrative level.

“I’m personally a little frustrated that we haven’t identified administrators as well,” Johnson said.

There are tentative plans to make $236,000 in reductions at the administrative level, which might include cutting an administrator. However, that position hasn’t been identified yet.

The recent round of layoffs is the latest in a series of cutbacks school officials have made over the past several years. Last year, budget shortfall prompted additional staff reductions and the closure of Clover Valley Elementary School.

Superintendent Rick Schulte pointed out that many school districts statewide are dealing with the same budget shortfalls and he doesn’t see that situation changing anytime soon.

“We’re going to continue cutting for the foreseeable future,” Schulte said.

He said the school district faces the prospect of having to resolve an additional $3.5 million worth of unfunded state costs in the coming years. Those costs stems from mandated cost of living pay increases and hikes in the school district’s payment to the state pension system.

School officials are still developing the district’s 2008-2009 school year budget. Schulte is waiting for more information about federal Impact Aid and special education funding.

He should have that information ready to present during either the May 27 or June 9 school board meeting.

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