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Posted: 05/28/14

RCS board OKs 2014-15 budget reductions

Observer Staff Writer
      The Romeo Community Schools has made just over half a million dollars in cuts, including the reduction of teaching staff.
       The Board of Education voted 6-1 in favor of making $533,480 in cuts in an attempt to help balance the 2014-15 budget. Trustee Sara Murray was the dissenting vote.
       A decision to remove a $81,000 cut by changing hall monitors to contracted employees was approved with a 5-2 vote. Treasurer Gus Demas and Trustee Anita Banach were the dissenting votes.
       Among the cuts is removing two high school teachers for $150,000 by reducing class offerings if enrollment doesn't meet 25 for Romeo High School courses and 19 for Romeo Engineering and Technology Center (RETC) courses.
       Superintendent Nancy Campbell said some RETC courses like culinary arts have restrictions on the class size, and any enrollment beyond those numbers do not provide additional dollars.
       "We really want to fill students' schedules with what they want, so it's just we would let it run at 19 because the amount of money we would get back is equal to what we would get back for a course we had at 25," she said.
       The cuts also reduce two elementary teachers from Amanda Moore Elementary ($150,000), reducing one special education teacher ($75,000), 4.75 full-time equivalent special education teacher aides ($85,000).
       Murray said she wasn't comfortable with cutting teachers, saying it directly affects students.
       "I would want to know what classes are going to be impacted by these teacher cuts," she said.
       The board voted 7-0 for a resolution to discontinue contracts with two behavioral specialists for a savings of $150,000. The positions were only implemented for the 2013-14 school year.
       The board also approved of keeping the district's health care program at an 80/20 split, where the district pays 80 percent of the costs and employees pay the remainder. The net savings is $1 million.
       Other aspects of the budget adjustments included reducing materials and capital outlay funding ($60,000), savings from energy conservation ($20,000) and spending ($215,270) on curriculum proposals.
       The reductions will dent the anticipated $1.3 to $2.5 million in expenditures over revenue for the 2014-15 year. A proposed budget is expected before the board in June following the release of the House and Senate's state aid numbers.
       The resolution to approve the cuts informed the board that "the district is encouraged to seek further cuts in upcoming budgets as needed to avoid financial difficulties."
       Hall monitors
       One of the larger cuts was $81,000 by moving three hall monitors at the high school level to be third-party positions. Vice-president Chris Giancarli wanted to remove the cut because the district is seeking a different third-party contractor.
       "It seems like we're a little premature if we're going to redo contracts with some other company," he said.
       The switch would not get rid of the hall monitors, but instead switch their employer to a third-party contractor. They would then have the opportunity to return to their jobs.
       The approval would've made all seven hall monitors employed through a third party. Campbell said they would've seen a 35 percent pay cut compared to their current positions.
       "If times were better and times were different we would not be recommending this," she said.
       Hall monitors spoke in favor of keeping their positions at status quo. Dorine Fuciarelli, a hall monitor of 18 years, said while she can understand the district's need to balance the budget, believes outsourcing would result in lower-quality service with contracted monitors.
       "The building doesn't run as smooth, and the customer<which is the student<gets shortchanged," she said.
       Christina Figurski, a senior, said hall monitors have become more like friends than superiors, and believes new hall monitors wouldn't have provided that level of comfort.
       "Getting rid of the hall monitors that all the students know and love will not benefit the students in the best way," she said.

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