Niagara Gazette

March 19, 2013

District losses revealed|10 teaching positions, retirees on chopping block as Lew-Port continues budget talks

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Lewiston-Porter Superintendent Christopher Roser was dreading the moment he had to reveal preliminary plans for cuts financial restrictions could force his administration to make heading into 2013-14.

What's even more difficult to take, for taxpayers and employees alike, is the 10 teachers positions he's proposed won't close the substantial gap the district faces. There's still more to come.

"There's going to be larger class sizes next year," Roser said after a brief presentation during Tuesday's school board meeting. "I would like to say we're done, but we're not."

Last week, Roser revealed the district is facing a $3.3 million gap between what money it will receive and what the current year's spending plan would look like with no cuts to staffing and step increases factored in.

Aiding the district would be eight retirements which wouldn't be filled with new staff, including the assistant superintendent for business services, Don Rappold's position through June 30. Roser's cuts also include eliminating modified sports, which would save the district $44,600 next year and transportation cuts for $81,000 in savings.

But it's the teaching positions which will hurt the district the most, with one person cut from each from English, mathematics, science, spanish, business and technology. Two elementary teachers and a librarian would also see their jobs eliminated. The cuts would save the district $701,000.

After all of those, Roser said, the district would still need to find a way to come up with more than $500,000 extra to close the hole, a grim reality all of the district's employees must deal with.

"It's a different process this year," Roser said. "It's going to be a lot of soul searching to get this figured out. It's going to require a lot of math and tough decisions."

Lew-Port United Teachers President Kevin Jaruszewski said he's spent hours looking at the numbers this year and was informed of the actual positions Tuesday. He said nothing makes sense to him anymore.

What's worse is he knows the people who will be without a job assuming these cuts go through and are approved when voters hit the polls in may to decide on the budget. He has a copy of the seniority list, which will be used to determine who stays and who doesn't.

It hurts him, he said.

"Now, seeing the positions, I'm starting to put the names to the cuts," he said. "Some of them were here (Tuesday) and they know they're low on seniority. We've lost more than 30 people in the last three years. Now we're going through this?"

Though the board has yet to identify ways to overcome the deficit it faces, one possibility remains as long as New York state continues down its current path. Board president Jodee Riordan said overriding the state's tax levy threshold is one option the board is exploring, though tentative information and no approved state budget make it impossible to speculate, she added.

"This is the first time we're seeing the information (about the layoffs)," she said. "We're still processing the information. Is it a possibility? Yes. But we're still waiting for more information about the state budget. We still have a lot of things coming up."

If Lew-Port were to exceed the cap, which is 4 percent next year according to the state's formula, it would require 60 percent of district votes favoring the plan in the May election, something neighboring district Niagara-Wheatfield tried and failed at last May.

The board has tentatively called its next budget workshop to continue to deliberate the numbers for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday inside the board meeting room of the community resource building, 4061 Creek Road, Porter.

mug - Roser, Chris Christopher Roser More cuts to come