SCHOOLS Board OKs employee cuts based on audit

The superintendent says a November levy must pass to prevent more layoffs.
STRUTHERS -- The board of education voted 3-1 to lay off 16 nonteaching staff despite opposition by about 60 community members and nonteaching staff, some of whom were on the cut list.
School administrators had determined the need for the layoffs based on an audit conducted by the state, which is scheduled to be released publicly in early September.
Board members Matthew Rhoads, Joseph Edwards, and Kandace Becker-Hagendorn voted for the layoffs, and Sheri Noble voted against them. None gave reasons for their votes. No reason was given for member David Barone's absence.
Some in the audience at Tuesday's board meeting were upset that the board was making cuts based on a report that has yet to be released and is subject to change. Others wanted to address alternative methods of saving money that would avoid the layoffs. And many questioned the savings the district has yielded in making other cuts.
Showing the savings
Treasurer Michael Evanson said he would prepare a report for Friday morning to show area residents an itemized list of the savings that have occurred through reductions in other areas, as well as potential cost reductions that have not yet occurred.
Board members reiterated during the two-hour session that other saving options might allow for some of the jobs to be saved, but said the board's contract with the union limits its cost-cutting abilities to reducing positions.
Other options, such as decreasing workers' hours or eliminating some holiday pay, would need to be agreed on by union members because of contract terminology.
Though the board welcomes alternative saving methods, at least five jobs would be lost in any case, Superintendent Sandra DiBacco said.
And if residents fail to pass the 6.9-mill levy on the November ballot, more layoffs will happen, she said.
Melanie Banfield, one of the workers on the layoff list, said she feels the noncertified employees have been targeted for cuts.
"It should be from the top all the way to the bottom" of the employee list, she said.
Resident Tom Gough, a former bank employee, expressed similar thoughts.
"You just can't wait for a levy," he said. "You have to have everyone across the board taking cuts."
Gough, who offered his own calculations for the board to consider, said he remained optimistic that a solution would come with cooperation from all sides.
"It's sad that we're in this position," he said. "But we're a strong town. We'll make it."

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