Beatrice Public Schools Board of Education voted Tuesday night to approve consideration of voluntary severance program for 2012-2013 during a special board meeting.
The purpose of the VSP, a one-time $25,000 teacher contract buyout, is to reduce ten certified employees in the following areas: two elementary positions, one secondary math position, two secondary English/language arts positions, one secondary science position, one secondary social studies position, one music position, one school psychologist position and one industrial technology position.
“The goal of the district is to get the number of staff members down and that is what this is designed to do,” interim Superintendent Roy Baker said. “What is needed is to start doing the job here with fewer people.”
At the board meeting, Baker compared enrollment numbers over the last 25 years. In 2001, enrollment in grades K-12 was 2,285 and in 2012 enrollment is 2,038. While student numbers went down, the number of teachers remained the same.
“There has been a clear trend over the last 20 years of a gradual decline,” Baker said. “I would suggest to you that there is nothing on the horizon that would cause that to turn that around.”
With a budget deficit facing the district in the "cliff year," Baker is looking at reducing staff as one of the ways to balance the budget.
“If the budget deficit was close to $400,000 last year and it is going to be $600,000 or $700,000 this year, it is only going to get worse,” Baker said
In a document given to the Daily Sun Wednesday, administrators indicate a budget deficit of $1,175,234 for the 2012-2013 school year. The deficit for 2011-2012 was $389,393, according to the document.
“Clearly things are on a collision course for the district unless we take steps,” Baker said. “With 80 percent of school district’s budget being personnel salaries and wages, to balance a budget, you cannot have more personnel than you can afford.”
Teachers who are eligible to apply received notification Wednesday and have until Feb. 15 to submit their applications for the buyout. Teachers who agree to the buyout will be given a one-time $25,000 stipend.
Principals, assistant principals and administration looked over where they could make reductions for about a month, Baker said.
“Everyone here has talents and abilities that are important for the district that no one else is doing,” Baker said. “It is not as easy as it sounds.”
In May 2011, five teachers accepted a buyout plan. The teachers eligible then had to be in the district for 10 uninterrupted years and rated a 1.66 or higher on the salary schedule.
This time around all teachers in eligible areas can apply.
“That just kicks the can down the road,” Baker said. “What we want to achieve is to get the number of people reduced, and obviously in doing so it is going to reduce dollars.”
In 2011, the goal was to achieve $200,000 in staffing costs savings. Baker said there is specific dollar amount in mind at this time.
“If we waited until next year, people are still going to know the same information I showed you, and they are going to be looking over their shoulders until something does happen,” Baker said. “That’s not humane either to keep people hanging for a whole year.”
Baker specified during the board meeting that salaries come from the general fund. Projects like building the new stadium came from the building fund, a separate balance in the district's overall budget.
During the meeting, board member Doris Martin expressed concern with the program.
“I think what bothers me the most is that we hired in three of those areas last year, and now we are looking at cutting in those areas and offering incentives to resign,” Martin said. “I would hope if we do this we can look far enough ahead that it doesn’t happen next year or the one after.”