DANVILLE — Calling it a tough decision, school board members on Wednesday unanimously approved eliminating two dozen positions and making other cuts to save the district nearly $3 million in the upcoming fiscal year.
Superintendent Mark Denman said at least 16 positions would be eliminated through attrition, but the rest could come through a reduction in force.
"We don't want to see anyone laid off," board member Randal Ashton said. "Unfortunately, we have a financial situation where choices have to be made."
Now officials must determine which employees will receive pink slips using a new reduction-in-force system that considers job performance, seniority and position. The board will hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. March 20 to announce those.
The board approved eliminating two school administration managers (one each at North Ridge and South View middle schools); 14 elementary teaching positions (10 by attrition) including 11 classroom teachers, one special education, one music and one physical education; three middle school teaching positions (two by attrition) including one art, one computer and one math coach; five high school teaching positions (four by attrition) including one credit recovery, one math, one science, one physical education and one business.
The cuts combined with the retirement savings will save the district about $2.12 million, Denman said.
The board also approved making another $956,310 in cuts to the buildings and grounds, technology and food service budgets, including the elimination of four commissary positions for a savings of $56,310.
"Most of the (staff) cuts will be through attrition because of the large number of people who are retiring at the end of the year," Denman said, adding 36 certified and 16 or 17 non-certified staff are set to retire.
"But I don't want to minimize the cuts. They are real," continued Denman, who earlier explained they're being prompted by anticipated losses in state and local revenue and uncertainty about pension and insurance costs and the affects of sequestration.
While no educational or other programs will be eliminated, Denman said that some class sizes will go up, but not dramatically. Because of that, the district must add four teaching assistants at the elementary level at a cost of $116,926 a year.
Before the vote, Robin Twidwell, president of the Danville Education Association, pleaded with the board to consider the affect the staff cuts would have on students. "We need teachers in those classrooms," she said. "Replacing them with teaching assistants is not the answer."
But Denman said the district is anticipating a $2.4 million deficit at the end of the current fiscal year, and expects more drastic reductions in state funding next year. Based on the state's plan for education funding, local officials are projecting an 18 percent reduction in general state aid next year — a $5.3 million loss — and an 81 percent reduction in transportation funding — a $1.2 million loss.
Without the cuts, officials said, the district's reserves, which are expected to drop from $20 million to $17 million by July 1, could decrease even more — possibly to $12 million or $13 million — next year. And only a portion of those reserves can be used to pay salaries and other daily operational expenses; the rest are restricted funds.
"We have to make sure our district remains financially solvent, and we're able to fulfill the duties of educating our children," Denman said.
Also at the meeting, the board approved the appointments and salaries for three administrative positions:
— Dianna Kirk, human resources director. Kirk, currently the district's associate superintendent, will succeed Kathy Houpt on July 1, and will earn a salary of $60,000 plus benefits in her new non-certified position.
— Brenda Yoho, director of educational support programs. Yoho, South View's principal, will succeed Diane Hampel on July 1, and will earn an annual salary of $88,663 plus benefits.
— Kimberly Norton, Northeast Elementary Magnet School principal. Valerie Gilbert has been serving as interim principal, and Norton, North Ridge's assistant principal, will take over on July 1 and earn an annual salary of $70,000 plus benefits.