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Personnel cuts expected as part of Francis Howell 2015-16 budget

Francis-Howell-School-District-LogoThe Francis Howell School District would cut as many as 66 academic and support staff positions under a proposal being considered by the Board of Education.

“It’s a very sad time to be eliminating positions,” Board President Eric Seider said during a Dec. 18 board study session.

About 39 academic and 27 support staff positions would be eliminated from the district’s total staff of more than 2,350 employees, according to 2015-16 budget-year staffing plans presented by G. Steven Griggs, the district’s chief human resources officer. The board took no action on the plan.

Griggs said that average class sizes would remain below recommended maximums, and actual layoffs would likely be minimal.

“The vast majority will be taken care of by attrition,” Griggs told Seider.

The personnel reductions would save the district nearly $4.2 million during the district’s fiscal year beginning July 1, Griggs said.

After at least eight consecutive years of budget surpluses, the district is now facing a projected deficit of at least $22 million next year, according to Kevin F. Supple, the district’s chief financial officer.

District resident Randy Watson spoke to the board and said the deficit could be as high as $28 million. He sharply criticized board members for budgeting five percent staff raises next year on top of granting 6.5 percent raises this year and 4 percent staff pay hikes last year.

“If we don’t have the money for them (the raises), we should not have granted them,” Watson told the board.

The district may try to find the money by placing a property tax hike on the August election ballot, Supple told Mid Rivers Newsmagazine.

In a verbal report to the board, Supple said the district is struggling to retain programs in a low-growth revenue environment and  Superintendent Pam Sloan said “the budget will continue to be tight.”

Supple put most of the blame on state lawmakers who have underfunded public schools statewide, but also cited expiration this year of a 19-cent districtwide special purpose operating levy, and several years of essentially flat property valuations. District officials hope to see higher property tax revenue as a result of 2015 reassessments, he added.

During the work session, Griggs detailed many of the proposed personnel reductions. Fifteen district top-level administrators and 65 building administrators would remain in place, according to district documents.

At the high school level, nine classroom, one special education and one part-time librarian position would be trimmed, Griggs said. High schools also would see fewer guidance counselor hours and less library support, he said.

In the middle schools, cuts would include nearly seven classroom positions, two counselors and one special education position, Griggs said. Library and guidance counselor resources would also be affected, he added.

In the elementary schools, 14 classroom positions, three literary coaches and extra days for librarians would be trimmed, Griggs said. Art, music and physical education program support would be reduced by an unknown level, he added.

Early childhood education programs also would see cutbacks, Griggs said.

Even with the cuts in elementary school classroom personnel, “the class sizes are still good,” Griggs said. Class size would range from a low of 19.5 students in kindergarten to a high of 23.3 pupils in fifth grade, he said.

Students districtwide would lose the services of a part-time audiologist and two education technical specialists, Griggs said.

Proposed support staff reductions include six “21st century classroom” paraprofessionals, 12 special education paraprofessionals, two and one-half administrative assistants, a print shop manager, a part-time grant accountant, and one and one-half maintenance positions, Griggs said.

The proposal comes one month after the board approved a 2014-15 budget amendment that increased district salaries by about $665,000. Supple said that an increase in federal funding provided for that increase. Officials also said that the increase amounted to little more than one-half of one percent of the salary budget.

The board is likely to consider the jobs-cutting proposal during its Jan. 22 meeting, according to Jennifer Henry, the district’s communications manager.

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