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District anticipating cuts

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School district readying for 10 percent loss of funding

By Becky Barnes

The Harrison County School District is digging in while awaiting the pending budget cuts that are promised to occur in several areas.
Superintendent Andy Dotson said Tuesday the district was notified that it could expect at least a 10 percent cut in federal and Title programs including Title I, II and III, special education, early childhood development and preschool as a result of sequestration.
Factor in no increase for Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding and a decrease in student enrollment, and you have a greatly reduced budget.
According to Dotson, in 2010, there were 993 students enrolled at the high school. Expected high school enrollment for 2013-14 is 935; a loss of 58 students.
Dotson said couple the loss of funding with the increase in expenditures and you can see where cuts have to be made, he said.
For example, the district is state mandated to increase its input for employee retirement; the cost of services has increased and fuel costs are unpredictable.
The district has a school nurse in each of its six public schools. That program is boosted through a partnership with Wedco. However, Dotson said, health departments across the state are feeling similar cuts.
“We’ve tried to stay away from hitting the classroom as much as possible,” Dotson said.
And, while it is spring and the time for non-renewal of contract notices for next year to go in the  mail for non-tenured or non-continuing status employees, Dotson said most of the hit is going to be absorbed at the district level rather than the school level.
Essentially, only one teaching position is being eliminated by the district.
He explained that one high school teaching position is being eliminated due to the reduction in student enrollment.
Also at the high school, where the site based decision making (SBDM) council previously used instructional monies to “purchase” two teaching positions, next year there will be only one.
Dotson attributed that cut to the enrollment reduction as well.
He also noted that while the superintendent can establish the number of teachers or staff allocated to a school, it’s the SBDM council that determines specific staff assignments.
He said that three years ago the student to teacher ratio at the high school was 28 to 1. Last year that changed to 27 to 1. Even with the proposed cuts, the high school ratio will remain at 27 to 1.
The office staff at the high school and middle school were each reduced by one person. Northside Elementary, which needed two office personnel, absorbed those continuing status employees.
Continuing status employees are the “classified” staff equivalent to tenured “certified” staff.
The staff size at each of the remaining elementaries will remain the same.
At the central office, Dotson anticipates a 72 percent budget reduction.
Plans are to purchase only one new school bus this year.
As far as district staff reductions, Dotson said they will be losing a half-time custodian, reducing homebound to half time, one secretary, part time transportation, reduction to half time support personnel, a learning center instructional aid and one and a half in maintenance.
He also noted that there may be retirements that have not been announced.
There have been over $500,000 in cuts from central office over the last two to three years, Dotson said.
“It’s not that we’re overstaffed, we’re just trying our best to keep teachers in the classroom,” he said.
Since Dotson became superintendent in 2008, the Harrison County School District has tallied over $2 million in funding cuts.
“The funding issue has been pushed and pushed until we finally have to do something,” Dotson said.