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Published: Friday, 3/26/2010

Perrysburg Schools layoffs eyed to close $3.1M budget deficit

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Perrysburg school officials Thursday night laid out for parents and the community the grim facts of a budget reality that could add up to a $3.1 million gap next fiscal year.

Community members also learned of cuts that could close the gap. Already, letters have gone to 64 staff members, including teachers, who might get a layoff notice after the Board of Education takes action next month.

"What we've tried to do is trim our budget, because that's something we can control," district Treasurer Matt Feasel said.

What the district can't control is the decline in revenue caused by a host of factors, from rising health insurance costs to reductions in state funding and tax revenue.

Because income is down, staff wages and benefits now total nearly 89 percent of the budget, while the ideal is 80 percent, Mr. Feasel said. "We can't continue to have our staffing [costs] at 89 percent," he said. "We have to get down to 80 percent."

That's why 60 percent of the proposed cuts are in personnel, Superintendent Tom Hosler said. And most of the cuts are at the high school, where students now choose among 33 electives.

"We can't cut third grade," Mr. Hosler said. "That's why the brunt of it is there" at the high school.

The proposed cuts, especially the layoff of orchestra, band, and vocal music teachers, brought heartfelt pleas from parents of music students and the students themselves.

Mr. Hosler said the music program has "gotten fantastic results, but we're in a position where we can no longer afford" that level of staffing.

Because of changes in the way teachers travel among schools, the same number of music courses will be offered with fewer teach-ers, he said.

Still, one music student said later, "The district is going to lose its prestige."

A father spoke of the improvements in his son, a special-needs student, after a class with a music teacher likely to be laid off.

A student of that teacher said the teacher gave them the news, and "the whole room started crying."

Bill Kitson, a parent of two Perrysburg students, said that standardized tests show that music students are further along academically than others. Certainly, their parents are more involved at school, he said.

He acknowledged that cuts may have to be made this year.

"Please let's make this be the last time we talk about music," said Mr. Kitson, who also is president and chief executive of the United Way of Greater Toledo. "We're in the top 100 in the country in music for a reason. We can withstand this maybe once. To keep going back at music year after year is just not acceptable."

The proposed cuts are a work in progress, Mr. Hosler said, as the administration hears from community members and further revises its recommendations. The Board of Education is expected to take action next month.

He said that asking voters to approve additional money is not an option.

"When you take a look at what's happening in the communities, outside these doors, people are hurting. We have to make the best with what we've been given," he said. "I don't like this plan; the board doesn't like this plan; very few people like this plan, but the bottom line is we have to come up with answers and solutions for next year, because if we don't, it'll be worse."

District officials also listed non-personnel budget cuts they estimate could save $1.2 million, including a change in kindergarten start times to save on busing costs; reducing weekend bus trips by half, and limiting substitute teachers and reduce substitute pay.

District officials have not yet pegged a cost savings to other suggested cuts, such as reducing local athletic trips and the number and length of field trips.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6182.



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