State officials warn of 10 to 15 percent cut ahead
Union County Public Schools are bracing themselves for budget cuts they know are coming, but just how big the cuts will be remains unknown.
“The general assembly is going to cut [teachers and teaching assistants] based on monetary and position allotments.” Superintendent Ed Davis said, “teachers assistants are monetary allotments and they are funded based on [kindergarten] enrollment.”
There’s no set timeline as to when the state will finalize cuts for this upcoming year.
“We could lose up to a third [of teacher’s assistants]” Davis said, “but I’d be willing to take that if we could hold teacher cuts to 3 to 5 percent.”
State budget cuts affect mostly teachers and teacher assistants. Davis and Board Chairman Dean Arp recently conferred with House Rep. Craig Horn and State Sen. Tommy Tucker, both of whom forecast a 10 to 15 percent cuts in state support. Horn held a town hall meeting dealing with education March 31, after print time for this edition. Check the website and next week’s paper for more information.
“I don’t know what will finally pan out, but we’re hearing that the 10 percent [budget cut] number is a good number to work with, but if we’re lucky it might be seven or eight – that will be much better” Davis said, “We’re going to go ahead and plan our budget on a 10 percent level and cut the most important things the lightest and least important things the most.”
The school system has faced funding cuts for the last three budget cycles. Last year, the school system weathered a four percent state funding cut. School Board members and Davis are worried about the cumulative effects the cuts will have on the quality of education.
“I think every school district in the state is going to reach a critical tipping point, when you’re not going to get the same outcome, because you’re not getting the same resources.” Davis said, “We are precariously close to that this year, more so on the stateside than the local side.”
Meanwhile negotiations continue between the County and School Boards, as the principles; Davis, Arp, Commissioner Jerry Simpson and County manager Cindy Coto met Tuesday afternoon.
“We are trying to be pragmatic and problem solvers” Davis said,” but at the same time are trying to advocate for our position. It’s a delicate tightrope to walk.”
In a presentation before the School Board work session March 22, Davis revealed a proposal to reduce the UCPS operating budget by $4 million. The County is asking for an $8 million in the cuts – cutting school system budget to $71.5 million from the requested 79.5 million.
The chart (page 15) indicates the amount of cuts and the percentage being cut from a specific expenditure school system wide.
Most dramatic is the 60 percent reduction in funds for media assistants in the elementary schools. In real numbers, according to Davis, this would mean that 30 people would lose their jobs – one per elementary school.
Davis indicated if no agreement is reached, UCPS will be forced to revisit the items listed above and cut deeper as well as considering many more items to cut.
If no agreement is reached, the school system can seek budget conciliation through a legal mediation process.
“The only recourse School Board has at the end of the day, is to fight with mediation,” Davis said, when asked about negotiations. “I’m not a lawyer, but I can tell you that there’s a strong case for either side of the coin.”
Davis was superintendent during the 2007 mediation and assistant superintendent in the 2003 mediation, where the school system negotiated $2.1 million of additional