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School district to cut 200 positions
by tribune staff
Jul 02, 2011 | 1728 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO – The Washoe County School District’s final budget for the upcoming school year was approved Thursday and about 200 district employees stand to lose their jobs as a result of drastic funding reductions.

The WCSD Board of Trustees approved an amended final budget for fiscal year 2011-2012, which includes $50.6 million in budget reductions and cost-savings measures. The final budget reflects potential concessions with employee associations that the district is seeking through ongoing negotiations, and includes savings of approximately $1.7 million from an early separation incentive programs.

Additional cost-savings include using money from one-time federal funding and instituting a second health insurance premium holiday, which would save additional dollars from healthcare negotiations.

“When we brought a budget to the board for approval back in May, we knew we would have to amend that budget because the 2011 Legislature was still in session and numerous questions remained about K-12 funding,” Superintendent Heath Morrison said Thursday. “We now have a clearer picture of our budget situation and this amended budget reflects those numbers. While we are relieved the amount of needed reductions has gone from the level we expected in January to the level the board passed today, these cuts follow several other years of budget reductions.”

WCSD estimated in January that it would be facing a $75 million shortfall for each of the next two fiscal years due to loss of local, state and federal funding. The estimated shortfall was adjusted at the beginning of June when state legislators and Gov. Brian Sandoval announced a budget agreement, which included a renewal of sun-setting taxes and additional funding for K-12 education.

To offset the $50.6 million shortfall in the district’s final amended budget, the board approved several steps that were originally recommended by the superintendent in April, including maintaining a two-student increase in class size for grades 1-3, deferring textbook purchases for another year, using savings from healthcare negotiations and using funds from the contingency and fund balance accounts. The budget also contains more than $5.5 million in reductions to Central and Direct School Support Services.

These reductions total about $40 million and the loss of about 200 positions.

Morrison explained that the district’s strategic plan, Envision WCSD 2015 – Investing In Our Future, and the many conversations with parents, school district employees and other community members, helped to craft the final budget.

“We’ve said since the beginning of this process that we would stay true to our goals set forth in the strategic plan and we have used that to guide our conversations about the budget,” Morrison said. “We were extremely proactive in gathering public input.”

The school district held five town hall meetings in May and launched one of its most aggressive outreach efforts with a budget survey, which garnered more than three thousand responses, Morrison said.

“We’ve used that input and our strategic plan to make the recommendations that ultimately created this budget,” he added.

The final amended budget includes an unresolved shortfall of approximately $10.5 million. The district is currently negotiating with its five employee associations to remedy the situation. Any unresolved shortfall after those negotiations conclude could still mean potential additional reductions to programs, possible increases to class size and layoffs.

Members of the board of trustees discussed the many difficult decisions involved in balancing the budget.

“These are very painful decisions that are going to have a direct impact on our children,” Board President Barbara McLaury said. “We know that increasing class size in the early grades will affect the classroom environment of our youngest learners and the reductions to the services that directly support our schools will also be noticeable.”

Budget reductions are not going to stop WCSD administration from moving forward with efforts to reform the school system and improve educational opportunities for local students, she added.

“The budget cuts will be felt district-wide as we move forward with our reform efforts,” McLaury said. “But we are determined to continue down that pathway to ensure that we get ‘every child, by name and face, to graduation.’ ”
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