School district plans job, program cuts

Published 6:54 pm Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The trickle-down effect of state education budget cuts could endup costing as many as 50 jobs in the Brookhaven School District,officials said Wednesday.

The Brookhaven School Board held a lengthy executive session afterTuesday’s meeting to discuss inevitable personnel and program cutsas a result of a potential 15 percent budget reduction for the 2011school year.

School District Superintendent Lea Barrett said it’s possible that15-20 certified positions, including teachers, counselors,behaviorists and administrators, will be cut for the 2010-2011school year. On top of that, 25-30 classified positions, whichinclude teacher assistants, bus drivers, janitorial crew andclerical positions, will also be eliminated.

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Barrett said the cuts are unavoidable since three quarters of thedistrict’s budget goes to payroll. However, the exact number ofpositions to be cut is not set in stone because of ongoing budgetdiscussions in the Mississippi Legislature.

“There’s a strong push for the Legislature to adjourn becausethere’s $189 million that may be forthcoming as part of a stimuluspackage, so the budget is up in the air,” Barrett said. “If that’srestored, we’d certainly go back and revisit these numbers.”

Also, effective immediately, Barrett said the school district willask bus drivers to pay the cost of obtaining their commercialdrivers license, and they will also have to cover the cost of theirphysicals. Applicants for all positions will have to pay for anycosts associated with their background checks, and athletic passesfor employees will now cost $15 each, Barrett said. After thisyear, the high school’s spring production will only be held everyother year until money is flowing more freely, and the yearlyretirees dinner has been cut out effective immediately.

Barrett said the district starts the next fiscal year with 8percent less than normally allocated for the Mississippi AdequateEducation Program.

Education officials are counting on further cuts by Gov. HaleyBarbour as revenues continue to fall. Barrett said House EducationCommittee Chairman Cecil Brown told a meeting of superintendents tolook for 15 percent cut in funding next year.

Such reductions would cut another $1.8 million from the district’sapproximately $12 million MAEP allocation, which is already downmore than $1 million from previous cuts. Barbour made his fifth cutto the fiscal year 2010 budget last week, which Barrett saidtrimmed a further $16.8 million out of MAEP.

Last year the school district lost around $380,000 to state funds,and this year has seen the loss of another $962,026, Barrett said.And the upcoming 15 percent cut would possibly subtract another$193,500, in addition to another $200,000 per year that is expectedto have to go to employee retirement funds.

“I don’t have any figures but I expect we’ll see a cost in healthinsurance costs too, and that’s another reason we’re trying to beso very careful,” Barrett said.

Tuesday’s board discussion was held in executive session because itinvolved programs and job descriptions that could be recognized asspecific people, said board attorney Bob Allen.

Allen said any cuts made by the school district will be in placefor the 2010-11 school year. But there will be some cuts of somekind.

“With the serious budget cuts being made by the state, the boardhas to consider budgetary restraints in determining whether certainpositions are affordable or, stated differently, which positionscan the district afford to keep,” he said.

So during the closed meeting, school district officials looked atemployee performance as well as necessity of positions andprograms, Allen said in an e-mail Wednesday.

Allen said the open meetings act allows the board to conductbusiness in executive session if it relates to job performance,character, professional competence or physical or mental health ofa person holding a specific position, as well as transactions ofbusiness and discussions regarding job performance or potentialtermination of a specific employee.

“The Educational Employment Act of 2001 requires teachers that arenot having their contract renewed for the upcoming year to benotified by certain dates in April, so by necessity the Marchmeeting each year of any school board deals with both exceptionsabove,” Allen said.

Barrett said more information on cuts will be available afteremployee contracts have been discussed by mid-April.

In other business Tuesday, School Board President Stan Patrickpassed the gavel to incoming president Dan Brown. The school boardrotates presidential duties each year.

The new vice-president is Carl Aycock, and the secretary is KarenBraden. Other board members include Patrick and Willie “Doc”Harrison.