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Published: Thursday, 1/12/2006

Bryan schools to cut 10% of teaching staff, impose fees

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BRYAN - The Bryan City School District, which lost its bid for a 1 percent income tax on the Nov. 8 ballot, will cut almost 10 percent of its teaching staff, charge students to play sports, and seek $250,000 in community donations next school year - even if voters approve the same proposed tax in May.

The school board, which made cuts Monday after spending seven hours behind closed doors Saturday, is expected to take a final vote to put a 1 percent continuing income tax on the May ballot during a community forum Jan. 31. The tax would raise about $2.6 million a year.

The board unanimously approved the personnel reductions and voted 4-1 to charge students up to $50 per sport they play, with a maximum fee of $200 per family per year and provisions for waiving the fee for those who cannot afford it.

Scott Acus voted no, saying that even with the waiver, the fee would hit families who can least afford it.

Such fees are expected to raise $35,000 to $50,000 a year toward the $400,000 a year the district now spends on extra-curricular programs.

Superintendent Jim Gunner said district leaders hope to save another $50,000 by reducing the number of paid coaches and club advisers.

A recently signed contract giving PepsiCo Inc. sole beverage distribution rights in the district's schools is expected to yield $200,000 to $250,000 over eight years. And district leaders are hoping a community campaign will be organized to raise $250,000 by mid 2007, which would cover much of the district's remaining extracurricular expenses next school year, the superintendent said.

The belt-tightening measures the board approved this week might help turn some of November's no voters into yes voters in May, Superintendent Gunner said. On Nov. 8, the tax failed by a count of 1,871 to 2,271.

The cuts include:

●Eliminating 16.3 positions next school year from the current staff of 172 teachers, librarians, and counselors. That would save the district about $850,000 a year.

About half of the reductions are likely to be by attrition. Typically eight to 12 teachers a year retire or resign.

One of the biggest cuts is in the junior high, which is to lose four teaching positions for the seventh and eighth grades.

With the cuts, the highest student-teacher ratio will be in advanced high school classes, where one teacher might have 30 students. The lowest will be in preschool, where one teacher might have 12 students.

●Ending Bryan's contract with a countywide center that supervises students who are suspended from classes.

The district has been paying about $17,000 a year, which is about 40 percent of the center's budget, and its pullout likely will threaten the center's operation next school year, Superintendent Gunner said.

Instead, parents will be responsible for students who get suspended next school year.

●Limiting field trips to one a year for each grade and confining them to Williams and Fulton counties, except for a few high school classes where other trips are part of the curriculum.

The district has been providing up to four field trips a year for some classes, some as far as Toledo or Fort Wayne, Ind.

●Reducing custodial, secretarial, and aide positions.

By attrition, the district has reduced four full-time evening custodial positions to two. This month, two secretaries who were employed eight hours a day started working 4 1/2 hours a day, which also eliminates their health benefits. And the board agreed to halve the hours it employs six aides.

●Eliminating a supervisory position and freezing the other 13 administrators' salariesl. The duties of a supervisor who oversees transportation, cafeterias, and maintenance will be divided among the other administrators, of whom the highest paid is Superintendent Gunner at a salary of almost $100,000 a year.

The cuts and income tax request are being made, in part, because of Ohio's phase out of the tangible personal property tax, which taxed business equipment and inventory, Superintendent Gunner has said.

Such taxes have accounted for 17 to 22 percent of the school district's total revenues in recent years. Meanwhile, staff costs - by far the largest expense for the district of 2,280 students, including 70 at the Four County Career Center - continue to rise.

The district's health insurance premiums increased more than 20 percent a year each of the last three years.

The labor contract with the district's teachers, librarians, and counselors calls for 3 percent raises each year through 2009. This year, starting teachers are paid almost $27,000. Those at the top of the scale make more than $60,000.

Community forums to discuss the cuts and the proposed income tax request with the board and levy committee Chairman Troy Simon are scheduled for Monday and Jan. 31, both at 7 p.m. in Bryan Middle School's commons.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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