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Teacher layoffs, class sizes depend on tax vote

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Posted: Friday, April 9, 2010 11:00 pm

The Kyrene Elementary School District expects to increase class sizes and hand pink slips to 74 teachers if voters don’t approve a 1-cent sales tax increase next month.

Kyrene will have an estimated $6 million to $11.8 million budget deficit next year due to declining enrollment, an overall decrease in state funding and other economic factors. The district is preparing two budgets, since the larger deficit will only become a reality if voters don’t approve Proposition 100, which would raise the sales tax 1 percent for three years, on May 18, district Chief Financial and Operations Officer Karin Smith told the governing board Tuesday.

Without the sales tax, the district would have to turn to cutting teachers and compensation.

“If the sales tax does not pass, we’re looking at how deep we have to go to balance the budget,” said Mark Knight, executive director of human resources.

About 53 teachers are expected to leave on their own next year through retirements, resignations or because they have one-year contracts, Knight said.

If the sales tax is approved, the $6 million deficit and $2.4 million in increased expenses could be made up without cutting additional teachers, Smith said.

The district would save $1 million in staffing, use $3.2 million in reserve funds, pre-pay $3.4 million in expenses and find another $1 million worth of efficiencies. Class sizes would stay the same even with fewer teachers because of declining enrollment.

But if the sales tax isn’t approved, the school district would have to contend with a 2 percent per-pupil funding cut from the state, which equates to about $66 per student, and a few other funding sources being eliminated, Smith said.

If that happens, the district plans to use an extra $1 million in reserve funds, save $1.2 million from implementing some kind of furlough program or other compensation decrease and save $3 million by increasing class sizes and cutting teachers.

The district expects it would have to cut 73 first- and second-year teachers, plus one third-year teacher who teaches either an elementary school special or middle school exploratory class, Knight said.

No programs would be cut, but class sizes would grow by an average of three students.

The board approved a preliminary action Tuesday that will let principals start meeting with teachers who could lose their jobs.

The board will have to vote again to formally approve a reduction-in-force list on April 13. If that happens, affected teachers would get notices  but could be called back if the sales tax passes.

This is the second year in a row Kyrene is looking to reduce teachers in the hopes of calling them back. Budget woes led to 68 teachers getting reduction in force notices last year, and more than 100 one-year contracts weren’t renewed, Knight said.

Ultimately, the district was able to offer all 68 of those teachers jobs again, but only 48 took them, Knight said. About 15 new teachers were hired last year as a result.

Most of the teachers who would receive reduction-in-force notices this year are the same ones who were cut and then called back last year.

However, because of the way reduction-in-force notices work, it may not be the same 74 teachers who get offered next year’s jobs.

When teachers receive a notice, they are first in line to receive job offers that meet their qualifications for three years, with job offers going out according to hire dates.

Since 12 teachers who were cut last year have opted to remain on the list, some of those teachers could be in line before people who were in classrooms this year, said board president Ross Robb.

Robb was concerned about the stress that will cause to teachers.

“In a perfect world, the 74 would be reduced, the same 74 would come back,” Robb said. “But we have to shuffle the deck.”

Schauer said the district recognizes the impact a reduction-in-force list will have. He’s insisting principals meet with every teacher who will be affected.

“We’re really sensitive to these individuals. We know this is about their livelihoods, their families. We don’t take this lightly,” Schauer said.

The Kyrene Education Association, which represents the district’s teachers, has sat down with the human resources department to ensure a fair and consistent process in reductions, said co-president Anna Montalbo.

KEA also will keep contact with the human resources department as notices go out and, hopefully, when teachers are called back, Montalbo said.

“We don’t feel good about the RIF,” she said. “None of us do.”

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