Rochester School Board Approves Potential Teaching Position Cuts
Superintendent Kent Pekel presented board members with a proposal last month that calls for a $14 million reduction in spending. The initial spending reduction target was set at $7 million, but Pekel says further action is needed to align the district’s operating costs with student population growth.
The budget framework unanimously approved by board members Tuesday night calls for cutting about 77 full time teaching jobs and for the elimination of more than 40 education support professional jobs, along with a number of administrative, clerical, school nurse, and maintenance positions. Before the vote, Pekel emphasized the framework is just parameters not specific cuts.
The exact number of job cuts needed to meet the spending reduction target won't be known until this spring. Some of the reductions will likely be addressed by leaving positions open following retirements and resignations, but Pekel also says some layoffs are likely.
“This is tremendously difficult to all of us. None of us want to be in this place. None of us think this is a somehow productive, painful but somehow enlightening exercise,” Pekel said.
Board members raised concerns of the impact the staffing cuts would have on the district meeting special education requirements, class sizes and other services offered by the district. Pekel says district staff will analyze the impacts of potentially larger class sizes and look for ways to avoid large sections, but cautions the necessary cuts cannot be achieved if special education and class sizes are untouched.
In addition to the proposed cuts, Pekel is recommending the use of $7.4 million in Federal COVID-19 funding to maintain critical services to students. The proposed budget parameters also call for using $200,000 from the school district reserves and delaying $2 million in payments to a health savings account and a fund used to pay for unused sick time at retirement or other employee departures. The superintendent said the temporary pauses in the fund transfers will not impact retiree benefits.
The District Administration will prepare a budget draft in March and April before gathering public feedback on the next budget in May, according to a timeline presented to board members. The school board will then study the budget proposal on May 30 before voting on whether or not to approve the budget on June 20.