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USD 489 continues teacher cuts

4/6/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

The numbers haven't been released yet, but some Hays USD 489 staff members -- maybe nearly 20 -- likely will receive pink slips before the school year is finished.

Staff members whose positions might be cut have been advised of that during the past few days, Superintendent Dean Katt said.

School principals have been involved in the decision-making process of which positions to cut, he said.

With the expected staff cuts, class sizes are predicted to be 21.65 at the elementary level, and in the core classes, 25.4 in the middle school and 23.35 at the high school, according to information from the district.

James Leiker, Hays USD 489 Board of Education vice president, said he doesn't like having to cut any positions because of the impact on people's lives.

"I hate to lose anybody," he said.

The staff cuts are part of the district's effort to offset an anticipated $1.3 million shortfall in next year's budget.

Because of the deficit, there's a "definite strong possibility" job cuts are coming, Leiker said.

Staff cuts would make up the largest chunk -- $973,000 -- of the deficit reduction, according to information released by the district.

Other staff-related budget items that could be implemented for fiscal year 2015 are reducing extended days or extra duties, amounting to $63,800, and English Language Learners staff reorganization, $70,000. A four-day summer work week for year-round staff could net $20,000 in utility savings.

Depending on staff retirements and resignations in the next few weeks, the actual number of job positions cut could change, Katt said.

Kathy Wagoner, bargaining unit co-chairwoman and Hays High School teacher, emphasized positions are being cut, not specific people.

"We support all our colleagues," she said. "I believe every single one of them will rise above it."

Hays-NEA isn't involved in the reduction of staff process or decision-making, except to make sure the district follows the contract language in such cases, and administrators have worked with the union in that, she said.

District officials also are looking at increasing some fees to make up the deficit.

Charging a fee for transportation of students within 2.5 miles from an attendance center still is on the table, Leiker said.

Fees for all-day kindergarten are unlikely.

"We're not talking about it," Leiker said.

Katt said a resolution to make the staff position cuts official probably will be on the agenda for the board of education's meeting set for April 21.

Some of the board's decisions might hinge on what the state legislature does, Katt said.

Rep. Sue Boldra, R-Hays, said the education bill passed Friday night in the House was "a pretty clean bill," and "meets what the (Supreme) Court asked," which included assistance in state aid for local option budgets and capital outlay budgets.

Previously Katt had estimated USD 489 could get $160,000 more in state aid for its local option budget but receives no state aid for capital outlay.

The House bill included the $14 per pupil increase in state aid that the legislature approved last year.

If it makes it through the process, it would mean $63,300 in additional money for the Hays district based on the current year's enrollment.

In the final tally, Katt said he doesn't expect to see any additional money from the state.

"I just don't want to lose everything we gain," he said.

Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, declined to comment on education funding until a bill is passed when contacted Friday afternoon.