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Francis Howell cuts staff, looks toward bond issue

Francis-Howell-School-District-LogoThe Francis Howell School District has slashed about 66 academic and support staff positions and warned that more may be coming.

“There will be some significant reductions in personnel for the fiscal year 2016 budget,” district Chief Financial Officer Kevin F. Supple said after the board of education voted 7-0 to enact nearly $42 million in personnel cuts.

He also said that planning, including development of voter educational materials and community meetings planning, had begun in conjunction with a proposal to place an increase in the operating tax levy on the August 4 election ballot. The last increase in the district’s levy was authorized by voters in 2004, Supple said.

The district should in May make a final decision on the tax increase proposition, Superintendent Pam Sloan said, and will next month launch a resident attitude survey on the subject. The survey work, which Sloan said would include a telephone survey of approximately 400 residents, is being conducted by Patron Insight Inc. of Stilwell, Kansas, Supple said.

“They’ll present a report to the board,” Sloan said.

Supple declined to say how much of a tax increase the district is considering. The district currently levies a combined operating and debt service property tax rate of about $5.19 per $100 of assessed valuation. After at least eight consecutive years of budget surpluses, the district is now facing a projected deficit of at least $22 million next year, he added.

In the meantime, the board voted to enact, with only minor changes and with no discussion, a staffing reduction plan proposed last month by G. Steven Griggs, the district’s chief human resources officer. Because the plan incorporates reductions by various full-time and part-time employment equivalents representing filled and unfilled positions, the number of employees actually affected by the reductions is unclear. Griggs said he thinks that about 39 academic and 27 support staff positions should be affected, but actual layoffs should be minimal.

“The vast majority will be taken care of by attrition,” Griggs told the board during its Dec. 18 meeting. He also said that, even with the personnel reductions, average class size would remain below recommended maximums.

Griggs amended his December staffing reductions proposal by specifying that some targeted paraprofessionals would be given the opportunity to move into other jobs and by minimizing plan impact in art, music and physical education.

Board President Eric Seider said after the Jan. 22 vote that the district has relatively few employees − about 2,350 − for a district of its size and composition.

“We are reducing our staff and still needing to get the same amount of work done,” Sloan added.

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