Sunday, April 18, 2004

Schools enduring delayed budgeting

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Three superintendents of Northern Kentucky school districts said they'll weather the state budget crisis but they are hoping for answers soon from Frankfort.

The General Assembly adjourned Tuesday without a state budget, leaving schools wondering how much state support to expect. The answer would dictate how many teachers and staffers get retained for next year and how many get laid off - a decision that has to be made by April 30, according to the Associated Press.

Expected retirements and resignations may reduce the need to cut staff but without specifics, it's tough to call.

Dan Sullivan, superintendent of Newport Independent Schools, said last year was a bad budget year for the whole state.

"We ended up cutting 22 certified personnel. We took a hit of $650,000. We made some heavy cuts last year. We had been overstaffed for several years, which is fine if you have money. It doesn't mean we had too many people, but you had smaller classes."

"This is the second time they've struck out in three years as far as the budget is concerned,'' Sullivan said of lawmakers. "Our situation is we're very stable here in Newport. We'll be able to weather this storm. We will not experience the bloodletting that we did last year. We'll have very few cuts, if any."

Fred Bassett, superintendent of Beechwood Independent Schools, said districts have an April 30 deadline to tell teachers whether or not they're rehired.

"If you're not going to get enough money, then you're going to have to lay some people off. What that forces school districts to do, sometimes, is to give pink slips to teachers that are non-tenured and then rehire them later on when they find out how much money they're going to have,'' Bassett said.

That creates an uncertain future for employees.

"They're all of a sudden without a job,'' Bassett said. "A lot of good teachers start looking around for other employment at that point ... It makes it tough on school districts to be able to be upfront with their employees, to be able to work with their employees and do things that would improve morale."

Beechwood has a contingency fund and Bassett said that will lessen the impact on the district.

Diana Heidelberg, interim superintendent of Campbell County Schools, said the district had been conservative in its staffing.

"We've been living on a pretty lean budget the last couple of years. I think the state has forced us into that. We won't be able to do any frills."

Still, Heidelberg wants to know why the state budget is in this fix.

"Why are they able to hold up everything in the whole state?,'' she said.

"We have to notify people by April 30 whether or not they have jobs...

"Having been in education for 30 years, it's not a healthy way to have to run a school district.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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