Thursday, January 29, 2004

Middletown schools to trim

Plan takes 45 jobs, but more cuts possible if levies fail

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

MIDDLETOWN - The Middletown Schools will eliminate 45 positions as part of a five-part plan aimed at reducing spending by $2 million or more.

The move is necessary to eliminate a $1.7 million deficit projected for June 2006.But to make the plan work, voters will have to renew a three-year, $4 million levy on the March 2 ballot along with a second renewal next year.

Neither would raise taxes. If voters reject the renewal levy, officials will have to determine where to make further cuts.

"We are hopeful and expect (reductions) will take place through normal retirements and attrition,'' said Dr. Mark Frazer, president of the Middletown Board of Education.

A representative of the Middletown Education Association could not be reached for comment.

Enrollment has dropped by 550 students over the last two years, to 7,143 students. During that same period, staffing was cut by 37 positions, mostly by attrition, said Edmund Pokora, schools treasurer.

The district also reduced costs by closing Oneida Elementary School in 2002 and Jefferson last year. About $125,000 was saved through an administrative reorganization a year ago.

Even with next year's staff reduction - which includes about 40 teachers and one administrator - the ratio of students to teachers district wide in grades K-12 will only increase from 19:1 to 20:1.

The plan calls for a reduction of nine positions at the high school level, seven at the middle school level and 14 in elementary. The final 15 would come from special education, art, music, physical education and similar areas.

Besides reducing staff, which should save about $1.7 million, the plan also calls for:

• A 15 percent reduction in capital improvement projects, which should save $200,000.

• Decreased spending on supplies and materials by 5 percent, for a $90,000 savings.

• Seeking alternate funding without raising taxes through Medicaid reimbursement for services to special needs students and through Internet access reimbursement. Those two should bring $250,000 to district coffers.

• Reviewing alternative school programs such as those at Garfield and Project Connect. Savings up $300,000 are anticipated over the next few years.


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