Paring staff positions, employee benefits top list of options for Grafton officials in face of $850,000 budget deficit
The Grafton School Board is continuing to explore cost-savings options, including staff reductions and pared employee benefits, in the face of a projected $850,000 deficit in the 2014-15 budget.
Although the board has yet to issue layoff notices, Supt. Mel Lightner said trimming the deficit will probably require eliminating eight to 11 teaching positions. A decision on those cuts is expected to be made by April 28.
“It is extremely difficult to put this budget together,” Lightner told the board last week.
“We will look at all of our options, but there are no easy answers.”
The board has already approved several cost-cutting moves, including freezing all administrative and managerial salaries for 2014-15 and paring $150,000 in transportation expenditures.
Lightner has recommended reducing administrative assistant and library media specialist positions, eliminating the equivalent of 2.5 full-time instructional coaches, 1.1 full-time Grafton High
School teaching positions and one special-education aide job.
The board has been asked to consider additional cuts in high school and middle school teachers, reading specialists and the hours of administrative assistants.
Lightner also urged the board to consider reductions in employee insurance, including types of coverage and the percentage of premiums paid by the district.
The district currently spends $268,000 annually on dental insurance by paying 100% of employee premiums, Lightner said. The monthly costs include $99 for family coverage and $38 for single coverage.
“A lot of companies don’t even offer dental insurance,” Lightner said. “Any reduction we could make in that area would help.”
The district currently makes $380,000 in cash payments to employees in lieu of insurance coverage, another area Lightner said should be re-examined.
“Any compensation we look at needs to be measured to make sure we’re at the right level,” board member Mike Holloway said.
Several staff members and residents asked the board to consider the impact of cost-cutting movements on the quality of education before making any decisions.
Mary Beth Wild, a fifth-grade teacher at Grafton Elementary School, said cutting administrative assistant hours would be detrimental to students, especially with the start of a 4-year-old kindergarten program this fall.
“The responsibilities are increasing and there will be more work,” she told the board. “We also have two new elementary school principals coming in.”
One resident told the board that eliminating a reading specialist would hurt needy students.
“It seems like a lot of these proposed cuts are being done piecemeal,” the resident said. “We should have a master list to prioritize what should and can be cut.”
Lightner said he agreed the board should weigh the impact of cost-reductions carefully but emphasized that tough decisions must be made. Cutting employee benefits could allow the district to avoid some staff reductions, he said.
Plans call for Lightner to continue working with Director of Business Services Kristin Kollath on specific cost-cutting recommendations that will be presented to the board at its April 7 and 28 meetings.