School board slashes $500,000

School board slashes $500,000 by David Lias The Vermillion School Board eliminated a number of full- and part-time employment positions in the school district Monday to help achieve a necessary goal of trimming approximately $500,000 from the school district's budget for next year.

The cutbacks mean there will be 5.21 fewer FTE (full time equivalency) employees in the district next year.

"The number of people affected are nine," Superintendent Bob Mayer said. "Nine contracts, nine people's jobs were either totally eliminated or reduced from their previous status. We're looking at almost a $500,000 cut in the budget for next year. Not all of that is personnel � $200,000 were other things which were not a major sacrifice, but personnel is hard to do."

At Monday's meeting, the board agreed to:

* Not renew the contract of Kim Johnson due to reduction in staff. (Gifted program).

* Reduce the contract of Marlys Larson by .33 full time equivalent due to reduction in staff. (Middle school careers).

* Not renew the contract of Shar Dambowy due to reduction in staff. (Reduction in vocal music lessons at the middle school .25 FTE).

* Not renew the contract of Monica Iverson due to reduction in staff. (VHS French .43 FTE).

* Reduce the contract of Kelly Knutson to .50 full time equivalent due to reduction in staff. (Reduction in middle school physical education).

* To not renew the contract of Aaron Hatle due to reduction in staff. (Reduction in physical education district wide).

* To not renew the contract the of Andrew Fischer due to reduction in staff. (Jolley School computers. Services will be continued by other elementary staff).

* To not renew the contract of Joe Delvaux due to reduction in staff. (K-9 alternative school).

* To not renew the contract of Jennifer Steckler due to

reduction in staff. (Reduction in VMS reading).

"Those people who received the notices could be called back if there are openings in the staff, if somebody retires or moves somewhere else, for example," Mayer said. "That could create a situation where they would still have a job, and that's highly likely."

The personnel cuts, he said, were spread throughout all schools in the district.

"In some cases, we're not eliminating the service. We're just using current existing staff to provide it," Mayer said.

For example, the person who has provided four-tenths FTE in elementary computer instruction at Jolley Elementary School has been reduced.

"But we're going to cover the service with existing staff that has tenure here," Mayer said.

He added that the school board and administration has restructured the operation of the middle school.

"We've had 40 minute classes over there, and now everything's 50 (minute classes)," Mayer said. "They have the same schedule as the high school, and we're sharing some staff with the high school and the middle school."

The Vermillion School District, he said, is bringing more class offerings to middle school students without spending additional money.

"A year ago, for example, we were offering German in the middle school," Mayer said. "That teacher left, and we didn't replace here for budget purposes. Now what we can do is offer Spanish to some of the eighth-graders. They can take Spanish 1 and get high school credit, and then the high school Spanish teacher will be able to offer Spanish 4, so we will have next year four years of Spanish and four years of German in the high school, and the middle school kids will get their foreign language back."

Middle school students also will be offered a class of Algebra 1 next year, which they can count on their high school transcripts.

"Then when they go to Vermillion High School, they can take Algebra 2, geometry, pre-calculus and calculus," Mayer said. "For the gifted math students in the Vermillion School District, they can have on their high school transcripts five years of high school math. That will be a definite advantage."

Cuts in high school programs also may allow drama classes to be offered at the middle school at no additional cost, he said. "The potential is there to bring home ec back to the middle school, too. We haven't worked out the bugs in that schedule, yet."

Vermillion expects to spend $900,000 of a $1.5 million fund balance, leaving the district with a projected $665,000 balance on July 1. The district, however, likely will spend $1 million above its revenues next year.

Without the $500,000 budget cut, the district would be nearly $350,000 in the red on July 1, 2003.

Mayer said the district's budget problems will continue next year.

"We'll be face with this same dilemma again next year, but what I expect the school board may do is consider a (property tax) opt out in September, for the 2003-04 school year," Mayer said.

Before the board considers an opt out, he said it likely will form a citizens' panel to gather community input.

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