Cutting and reducing supplemental pay across the Gilbert Unified School District is one of the latest budget cuts announced Tuesday as the district finishes closing the estimated $25.5 million budget deficit.
Throughout the budget process, the district has continued to rehire teachers who were told in April their jobs were not safe. So far, Gilbert has rehired 181 certified employees, most of them classroom teachers, but also psychologists, speech pathologists and special education teachers, associate superintendent Nikki Blanchard said.
The original estimated $27 million deficit was adjusted down to $25.5 million, and Superintendent Dave Allison stressed the budget cuts are still based on the “worst case scenario.”
“We’ve reached an area where we feel we’ve balanced the M and O (maintenance and operations) budget,” Allison said. “Without a state-approved budget, it’s hard to pin down.”
Legislators are still working to address a possible $3 billion to $4 billion shortfall in revenue next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Allison outlined an additional $1.3 million in budget cuts Tuesday, including adjusting all stipends and supplemental pay by 10 percent (including athletics, performing arts and department heads), suspending transportation and food service incentive pay for good attendance, and eliminating one of two junior high language arts stipends.
Social workers will work two fewer days a year. Counselors and librarians will have fewer working days to prepare for the school year.
Two elementary schools’ social worker positions, and three junior highs’ and one elementary school’s media assistant positions will be cut due to lower school enrollment. Instructional aides will also be adjusted at the elementary schools.
Security at athletic games will be paid through the vendor, instead of paying school security time and a half in overtime.
Plans are also under way to adjust transportation costs for field trips, substitutes and the training of bus drivers, as well as reducing the summer work budget for transportation.
“It’s been a tough road since March,” said Allison, adding he has been in many budget meetings and consultations to come up with the cuts. “It’s affected (Gilbert district), and that’s affected a lot of loyal people in our district.”
The governing board approved 10 additional teacher rehires Tuesday, bringing the total to 181 rehired. Nearly all secondary teachers have been rehired, Blanchard said.
There are fewer than 40 fully-certificated, highly qualified teachers who were laid off and have not been hired back, she said.
The district is still waiting on kindergarten enrollment numbers to hire back more kindergarten teachers, Blanchard said.
None of the rehired teachers have emergency certification or substitute certificates, she said.
“The majority were rehired from the (reduction in force) list,” Blanchard said.
The district originally lost 429 positions in April due to resignations and teachers whose jobs were cut as part of a reduction in force for the upcoming school year.
Through class size changes and realigning several programs, including reducing art, music and physical education for kindergartners, 275 positions were cut throughout the district.
Since the announcements, more than 50 teachers and other certified staff have resigned.
The board also approved a one-year change in how teachers’ performance pay is calculated so that for one year, it will be based more on the teacher’s knowledge and skills and less on the test results of students. The change will guarantee that teachers receive performance pay this school year, instead of waiting to see the students’ academic success, which gives the money the following year.
The money is estimated to be about $86 per teacher on average and is a “little gesture” to say the teachers are “important,” said Jo Bell, president of the Gilbert Education Association.
“We’re looking at lower paychecks (with increased benefits and reduced performance pay),” Bell said. “This isn’t a whole lot of money, but it’s still an acknowledgement (of the teacher’s work).”
The governing board also approved the annual agreement with the district’s teachers for the 2009-2010 school year. The biggest change is the addendum, which outlines a full-page of previously announced cuts due to the budget deficit. However, there is a mention that there are options for restoring some of the cuts based on budget availability.
The cuts include cutting sick days by two days, cutting personal leave by one day, and suspending bereavement leave. There also will be no annual pay raises, and employees will have to contribute $20 for 20 pay periods toward insurance benefits.
“Teachers are not happy with the addendum. However, we are very pleased that we can restore something if the money is available,” said Bell, a Mesquite High School English teacher. “This is probably as good as it’s going to get this year.”