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Published: 5/26/2009

Mason officials take action on $475,000 in budget cuts

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ERIE - With projections that the district could nearly run out of money in two years, Mason Consolidated Schools officials last week set in action nearly $475,000 in budget cuts.

The budget reductions approved by the board of education included the elimination of four teaching positions - an elementary enrichment teacher, a middle school teacher, and two high school instructors.

The employee cuts will work out to the district having 3 1/2 fewer teaching positions next year for an annual savings of nearly $220,000 in personnel costs.

Superintendent David Drewyor said that re-assignments of teachers through bumping under collective bargaining could, at the most, cause three teachers to lose jobs.

"Right now I am hoping that there will only be one teacher being laid off," he said.

The school district is trying to cut nearly $1 million from the budget for the next school year.

Without the cutbacks, Mr. Drewyor said the district's savings would shrink to about $200,000 at the end of the 2009-2010 school year.

"The good news is that we are making the cuts that we need to make," Mr. Drewyor said in a later interview. "Some of the recommended cuts were tabled and need to be looked at. But cuts need to be made."

Among other reductions approved by the board were elimination of cell phones for administrators and other staff, ending the liason officer position in the district, reducing the yearly work schedule of secretaries and an administrative assistant to 11 months, and elimination of athletic director positions at the high school and middle school.

Also, a maintenance position, currently held by an employee who is retiring, will not be filled, 2 1/2 bus routes will be removed, and the board agreed to lease fewer buses and sell an extra bus, saving the district about $138,000 a year.

The administration's recommendation for decreasing routes was approved 4-3, with President Don Pearce, Wynne Phillips, Larry Guinn, and Sandra Dobbs supporting it. Denise Gale, Ken Sieg, and Mike Ginther were opposed to the measure.

Mr. Sieg said he was concerned that the changes could impact student safety, especially special-needs children who will be transferred multiple times to attend programs at another school district.

"Everything always looks good on paper until you put it into effect," he said. "I know we have to cut but you are cutting in regards to the needs of the children."

Board members put aside the recommendation from the administration to replace paid middle school and ninth grade coaches with volunteers and using third-party contracts to handle other coaching duties.

The board earlier added $25 to the play-to-participate fee for athletics, a recommendation made by the administration as a way to avoid elimination of school sports programs.

At the meeting, Dan Meisner asked school officials to keep coaches on the district's payroll. He said many coaches put in extra hours to assist students with studies and other issues.

"You are kidding yourselves if you think you will get experienced coaches for no pay," said Mr. Meisner, whose wife is a track and cross-county coach at the school.

He said the school system runs the risk of parents pulling their children out of the district and sending them to other schools if successful sports programs would fail.

"Don't feed the fire by eliminating more jobs, and taking away from the students.," he said. "I would like to see board members, administrators and coaches at the middle school and high school to consider a pay cut. This will save jobs and programs."

The administration projected that using volunteer coaches and the third-party contracts for other coaches would save the district about $50,000 a year.

The board agreed to send the proposal back to the administration to study other ways to cut costs.



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