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Published: Wednesday, 4/29/2009

Mason teacher layoffs, higher sports fees likely

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ERIE - Faced with a nearly $1 million budget deficit next year, Mason Consolidated School officials are weighing significant cuts that could include teacher layoffs and increased athletic fees to play sports.

Superintendent David Drewyor last week announced a list of recommendations that were compiled by the district's administrative team to offset a projected $930,646 deficit for the 2009-10 school year.

The recommendations, which will be reviewed by the board of education at its regular meeting on May 4, call for eliminating three classroom teachers and an enrichment instructor and increasing the play-to-participate fee for athletes.

If implemented, the suggested cuts in transportation, athletics, and staffing would erase about $837,326 of the deficit, leaving the district about $93,000 short of balancing the budget, Mr. Drewyor said. A budget must be approved before July 1.

Mr. Drewyor said he hoped the board could fill the gap by seeking wage and benfit concessions from the unionized teachers, staff, and administrators, who are scheduled to have their contracts reopened for wage negotiations.

"This is an ongoing process," he said.

Other potential cuts and cost- saving measures include:

•ending elementary lunch recess to eliminate playground aides.

•eliminating high school and middle school athletic positions and assigning the duties to other administrators.

•decrease discretionary spending for textbooks and equipment in the elementary, middle school, and high school levels.

•cutting four weeks from the annual work schedule of secretarial and administrative assistant positions.

•consolidating bus routes, leasing four buses, and selling one bus.

•converting paid coaches at the middle school and ninth grade to voluntary positions and using third party contracts.

•freezing wages and step increases for employees, including the superintendent's salary.

•eliminating cell phones for staff.

The board of education implemented cost-saving measures, including teacher layoffs, to address a $557,000 shortfall in the budget in June, shortly after Mr. Drewyor was hired.

School officials said flattened state revenues and increasing operating costs are contributing to the deficits, but the major factor is declining student enrollment, which is projected to a drop of about 40 students next year.

"That is what is killing us," Mr. Drewyor said.



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