Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Late state budget forces layoffs at schools

Districts' funding uncertain

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Northern Kentucky superintendents say not having a state budget is paralyzing their ability to prepare for next school year.

        They've had to pink-slip employees, including teachers, because they are uncertain if the funding for their positions will be included in the budget, which by state law, the General Assembly should have passed by April 15.

        A special legislative session is now in its seventh working day in Frankfort to pass a proposed $35 billion, two-year state budget, which is usually settled by this time of year.

        The tardy state budget has left local school districts in limbo about exactly how much money they will receive from the state.

        Many superintendents are slashing staff, cutting programs and absorbing positions through attrition to balance budgets. Some teachers who received pink slips by today's notification deadlinewill be rehired when a state budget is approved.

        One part of the problem is that local districts are being asked to help pay for mandated 2.7 percent teacher raises.

        “I wish they'd get on the ball and do something down there in Frankfort instead of playing politics,” said James Molley, superintendent of Erlanger-Elsmere Independent Schools. “Right now, we're in the process of not knowing how much money (the district will receive) or if we will have any new money next year since the state does not have a budget.”

        He said 33 notices were recently hand-delivered informing staffers, including several teachers, that their contracts will not be remewed. Other reasons for the layoffs include having to pay for federal employees' health care and utility bills.

        In the Ludlow School District, one elementary and one middle school teacher, as well as two instructional aides are being cut from the district's payroll to help pay for the teacher raises.

        “We will also be having cuts in supplemental salary schedules,” superintendent Elizabeth Grause said. She said mostly coaches and sponsors will be affected by those cuts.

        Jack Hicks, spokesman for Newport Independent Schools, said a few teachers are being laid off in anticipation of what educators are calling an unfunded mandate. District officials also expect to save money by not filling the positions of 14 retiring teachers.

        Randy Poe, assistant superintendent/management support services for Boone County Independent Schools, said, “Our biggest area of concern from the state is funding of grant positions and how much is the state actually going to fund certain programs ... So, basically they are receiving a notice of layoff until we have a clear budget picture from the state that we will be able to hire them back immediately.”

        An exact number of employees affected in Boone County was not immediately available.


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