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Grayson won't cut teachers

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Positions will be cut across the Grayson County School Division, but administration hopes all can be done without any current personnel losing their jobs.

After original estimates showed Grayson County schools would lose more than $1.2 million in state funding, the school board received better news last Thursday.

Grayson Schools' Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas presented the board with the proposed 2009-10 budget, which included a smaller — $649,387 — reduction in state aid.

“We were looking last time at an amount of $1.2 million that we were going to see in reductions,” Thomas told the board. “Fortunately, we've got a little bit of a better picture, but we are still looking at cuts.”

At the January meeting, Thomas had noted that the division may have been looking at a 3 percent rollback in all school employees' pay, or a reduction of eight teachers or 16 instructional aides.

But after cuts were scaled back — mainly due to the federal stimulus package's funding for Virginia — Thomas is confident that the budget can be met without losing any personnel.

Cuts in the 2009-10 budget under instruction include:

• $100,000 — instructional aides.

• $50,000 — librarian.

• $50,000 — instructional position.

• $25,000 — secretarial position.

According to Director of Instruction and Assessment Steve Cornett, those positions can be absorbed through not re-hiring after teachers retire this year.

With the approval of the school board to proceed with the early retirement program, an estimated 20-30 people will retire at the end of the school year — 17-18 of which will be teachers.

Cornett noted that the instructional aid positions will not actually be cut, but will instead be assigned other duties and fall under a different category. The parallel moves allow their wages to be paid with federal money.

As for the librarian position, Cornett again added that no one would lose their job. Plans are to combine librarians at Fairview and Baywood elementaries.

Cornett said the two full-time librarians will split time at each of the schools, eliminating one position.

“Hopefully, with the early retirement and such, nobody will actually lose a position,” Cornett told the board. “If one doesn't retire, the [librarian] with the least amount of experience would go back into a teaching position, and their pay would stay the same.”

One instructional position will also be cut at Baywood.

Thomas said one grade level at Baywood has two teachers now, but due to a lower enrollment next year, only one will be required.

Again, the position will be shifted somewhere else to fill the spot of a retiree.

The $25,000 in secretarial positions, according to Thomas, is actually two halves of secretary wages.

Although no teachers will be at risk of losing their jobs through cuts, no raises were proposed, either.

“I have not proposed any salary increases,” Thomas said. “Not even a step increase.”

Board Member Gary Burris figured most people would be satisfied just to know they have a job and won't have their pay cut.

“I think everyone would be happy with a flat level right now,” he said. “Everyone knows what shape the country is in right now, and I don't think anyone can fuss about breaking even.”

Other significant cuts to the budget include:

• $22,450 — Solar Benchmark Testing (federal money will be used to pay).

• $1,200 — SOL Tracker.

• $2,500 — elementary materials.

• $1,000 — furniture.

• $19,480 — capital outlay.

• $128,000 — textbooks (This is not an adoption year, but last year was, so the total was significantly higher then.)

• $66,000 — central office position.

• $150,000 — purchase of school buses. The school system is hoping that the Grayson Board of Supervisors will return its carry-over of more than $300,000 saved last year to purchase new buses for the 2009-10 school year.

• $18,000 — purchase of two used vehicles to replace older county vehicles.

In this year's budget process, Dr. Thomas said several priorities were used in determining where to make cuts.

Those priorities included things such as prevention of salary and compensation rollbacks; continuing to provide 90 percent of single coverage health insurance with dental benefits; providing high-quality academic and career and technical educational services to all students; and maximizing the efficient of the total school budget.

With the cuts, Thomas said the central office staff has managed to create a “zero budget,” meaning there are no deficits. That, of course, depends on whether the county gives the school system the same amount it provided last year — which is what the school board will recommend.

The revenue that will be saved through the early retirement plan has not been included in the budget, and will actually provide the school board a surplus to use next year.

Thomas said plans were to ask the supervisors to approve a lump-sum budget, allowing the school board to re-allocate funds as needed.

In other words, once the money is saved from the early retirement, the school system will be able to use it wherever the school board deems appropriate.

• Dr. Thomas will present the budget to the supervisors on March 16 at 5 p.m.