School system to cut 26 teachers

CENTERVILLE, La. — Nearly 4 percent of the parish’s public school teaching force will be eliminated through attrition in the coming school year.

The 26 teaching positions to be cut include four on the elementary level, eight in junior high, six in high school and 17 special education teachers.

Superintendent Donald Aguillard said Tuesday during a School Board budget workshop that finances are getting tighter each year for the district.

We’re near the end of being able to save money through attrition … The next set of cuts, if they have to happen, are going to hurt instruction,” Aguillard said, adding that things like books, extended day and tutoring could be affected.

Chief Financial Officer Alton Perry said this morning that teacher cuts like these are made based on anticipated student attendance for the coming year. He said similar cuts are made in the central office, when possible, as personnel retire or leave.

Over the years, the staff has been reduced from 1,500 to 1,360. About 100 of those reductions were teaching positions, Perry said.

This time last year, 18 school paraprofessionals were laid off. Another 40 full-time positions within the school system were eliminated through attrition. The paraprofessional jobs included job layoffs due to a depletion of federal Title I funds. The same situation this year resulted in the loss of a higher number of special education positions, Perry said.

Aguillard said the board has added little burden to the general fund budget.

“We’re hardly adding anything to consideration. We’re cutting, we’re cutting, we’re cutting. It’s nobody’s fault … We’re headed toward a situation where it will impact instruction,” Aguillard said.

The district has a $19 million general fund balance, an amount Aguillard said quickly would be whittled down if it is needed to be tapped year after year.

For the 2013-14 fiscal year, the budget is projected to have a $3.3 million budget deficit, made up partially by a $2.5 million contingency fund transfer should it be needed. That money would come from the general fund balance.

For the previous three fiscal years, this contingency fund has been in place but not used, Perry said.

“I have reason to feel this year we will not need the $2.5 million contingency funds,” Perry said.

Other items of note during the budget workshop included:

—Elimination of a school bus route in the Franklin area. The Catholic school routes will be consolidated, Aguillard said.

—Elimination of a vacant part-time school secretary position at W.P. Foster Elementary in Franklin.

—Confirmation that teachers only will receive a bonus of about $600 each as mandated by the state Legislature when it approved an increase in the school funding formula. Under the current guidelines laid out by the state, principals and administration in the central office, librarians, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals and support personnel will not receive the bonus.

—Increased cost of $500,000 in health insurance premiums to avoid penalties under Obamacare, $225,000 to the textbook budget due to a reading adoption pending this year and $1.1 million as the result of an increase in teacher retirement contribution rates from 24.5 percent to 27.2 percent.

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