Up to 60 K-12 jobs could be lost in IC

BY LUKE VOELZ | APRIL 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa City School District teachers could see up to 60 cuts by the end of April, district officials said Monday.

The estimated cuts, which will likely be split equally among teachers and support staff, are due largely to the School Board’s estimation of 0 percent allowable growth rate as proposed by the Iowa House for the upcoming school year.

School Superintendent Stephen Murley said this, combined with a 3 percent increase in labor and personnel costs, would lead to a $4.3 million to $6.8 million deficit for the upcoming school year.

“I think that given the fact that we’ve never had 0 percent allowable growth in state history, the [Board of Education] failed to recognize that costs are going up on an annual basis,” he said. “One would hope that there would be an increase in costs and willingness to allow us increased growth to match those costs.”

The predicted cuts are a further repercussion of the financial difficulties that led the district to announce the likely elimination of four reading-teacher positions two weeks ago.

Iowa City Education Association President Tom Yates offered a less negative view of the announcement, explaining that the district should continue spending the $1.8 million left over from the Education Jobs bill.

“That money literally is not supposed to be used for anything else but helping teachers get their jobs,” said Yates, who is also an English teacher at City High School. “One-point-eight million dollars would keep an average of 36 teachers from getting cut if they all made $50,000 a year. I just don’t see that at least for a year using that money we’re going to lose that many teachers.”

The 57-year-old said he wasn’t able to predict what positions would be cut beyond the reading teachers.

“[District officials] have been really tight-lipped about it,” he said.

School Board members said they are struggling to find budget areas to cut to avoid the personnel cuts.

“The problem is that we’ve been [looking at alternate areas to cut] for a few years,” said School Board member Gayle Klouda. “When more than 80 percent of your budget is people, that leaves a limited amount of budget to adjust that doesn’t affect jobs.”

She said the district is still looking at cutting costs by economizing energy spending.

“There are still some avenues with energy savings,” she said. “And trying to be as efficient as possible in running every building we have. I think we’re at the level of things like making sure we turn off computers when we’re done. They’re not earth-shattering and not going to save tremendous amounts of money in any one instance, but with the number of buildings our district has and number of computers in them, any use of energy is going to compromise.”

The district’s energy conservation board is trying to help these efforts, she said, though she understands such savings will be relatively small in the long run.

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