By DAVE GYMBURCH Sentinel staff writer
At least 75 percent of the Rome school district’s 46 teacher layoff notices can be rescinded due to staffing adjustments for retirements, says Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons.
Simons told the Board of Education Wednesday night he is confident that "a large number if not all" of the notices that were issued about three weeks ago will be cancelled, as he continues the "process of looking at the impact...of retirement notices." The 75 percent estimate would equate to about 35 of the notices.
Simons outlined the projections before the board voted 6-0 to approve a tentative 2010-11 budget of about $97.5 million with a proposed 2 percent local tax levy increase and a spending increase of 1.77 percent. The board also unanimously approved several related moves that helped cut costs in the new budget, including four revised union contracts with reductions in raises, plus the retirements of 39 teachers who accepted a retirement incentive of $15,000 apiece. Currently, there are about 530 teachers serving an enrollment of about 5,800 students.
The board will hold a public hearing on the budget at its May 5 meeting. District residents will vote on the spending plan in the May 18 election.
Absent from Wednesday night’s meeting and budget-related votes was board clerk Christine Esposito due to unexpected family commitments, said board President Patricia Riedel.
Regarding teacher layoff notices to be rescinded, Simons said the district will "not support positions not needed," but will "do as much as we can to keep employees working and serving students." The district is eliminating 30 teacher positions at a savings of about $2.1 million by not replacing retirees, and Simons said he is still identifying the specific slots in tandem with determining the areas in which certain retirees may need to be replaced.
Among factors still being reviewed, Simons explained, are middle school and high school course requests for 2010-11. In addition, some teaching positions currently funded with federal Title 1 and special education money separate from the regular budget may help reduce the number of layoffs, he said.
Simons said he hopes to arrive at full impacts by early May. He emphasized that the estimates are based on the proposed budget receiving final approval on May 18, adding that teachers would not be notified of rescinded layoff notices until after that point.
Another development that could offset layoffs or the proposed 2 percent tax increase, Simons told the board, would be a restoration of at least some of the proposed $2.8 million state aid cut that helped create a funding crunch in the 2010-11 budget. Restoring aid would be "the best way to ensure local taxpayers are not overburdened," he said.
A new state budget including the education aid has not yet been approved by legislators, and Simons noted that an Assembly proposal to restore some aid would bring back $1.1 million for Rome’s allotment. But the outcome of such state-level plans is unknown. The state budget is 22 days late.
The district will save about $500,000 from "givebacks...in expected wages" for raises under the renegotiated union contracts, Simons said. Reworked contracts approved Wednesday included teachers, administrators, teacher assistants, aides and monitors, and clerical employees. A revised contract for custodial/maintenance staffers will be on the board’s agenda for approval at its next meeting.