Press-Republican

March 23, 2013

Peru Central proposes staff reductions

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — PERU — Peru Central School could eliminate the equivalent of 21.8 full-time positions to bridge its anticipated $2.9 million budget gap for 2013-14.

Superintendent Dr. Patrick Brimstein presented the recommended reductions, totaling $1.3 million, to the School Board at a meeting this week, saying his goal was to maintain as much breadth of programs as possible.

The proposed personnel reductions include the equivalent of 1.6 full-time Academic Intervention Services teachers; 0.5 of an account clerk typist position; three elementary teachers; four teacher assistants; 0.4 of an elementary art teaching position; 1.6 media specialists; one custodial position; one secondary-school nurse; 0.2 of a health teaching position; 3.4 secondary teachers; one special-education teacher aide; 0.6 of a secondary music teacher; one school psychologist; 0.5 of a typist position; and two special-education teachers.

Many of these positions, Brimstein said, could potentially be eliminated through attrition.

He also proposed reducing expenditure on equipment, contractual, materials and supplies district-wide by $46,577.

LEVY LIMIT

None of the reductions, he said at the meeting, are proposed without reason, and whatever recommendations the board ends up making, “there still has to be cuts ... it has to come from somewhere, (but) we’re trying to minimize impact.”

Peru Central has also proposed using $1,352,197 in reserves next school year to help close its budget deficit, which, according to school officials, is the result of significant cost increases combined with relatively flat state aid.

While PCSD originally calculated its 2013-14 tax-levy limit at 2.34 percent, an exclusion in the levy-limit formula related to rising costs of Teacher Retirement System contributions allows Peru to raise it up to 4.32 percent without super-majority voter approval.

During a public-comment period, Peru Association of Teachers President Kathleen Roach told the board she personally prefers the district exceed the levy limit instead of making cuts.

Board President Donna LaRocque said that while she would like to be able to do that, she fears voters wouldn’t approve such a spending plan.

LaRocque also noted that Peru Central has not put forth a levy increase above 4 percent in many years and that she would prefer to keep the tax increase at about 3.99 percent for 2013-14.

“I think that’s about all the community is going to bear,” she said.

School Business Administrator Randolph Sapp told the board that if it chooses to set the tax levy above 2.34 percent, it must then decide whether to use the additional income to restore proposed reductions or decrease the amount of allocated fund balance.

NURSE CUT DEBATED

The proposed reduction of a secondary-school nurse caused concern among board members.

“Reducing any one of the full-time nurses in any of our buildings really concerns me ... we have a very large district, and we’re serving a lot of kids that have a lot of needs,” board member Linda Morgan said.

The district employs two full-time nurses in each of its two buildings; one full-time substitute nurse; one part-time nurse for students with special needs; and one full-time nurse who provides services at Seton Catholic Central School.

Because Seton Catholic is located in the geographic boundaries of the Peru Central District, PCSD is required to provide it with nursing services, which are then partially reimbursed by other districts that have residents attending the parochial school.

However, Seton has considerably fewer students than PCSD, according to Brimstein, so there may be the potential for the nurse to divide her full-time duties between the two schools and still provide the required care at Seton.

If the district were to eliminate a secondary-school nurse, he said, it could look to both the substitute and Seton Catholic nurses to support the remaining secondary-school nurse. Or the full-time nurse could be retained and the substitute-nurse position eliminated instead.

“There’s flexibility in these recommendations,” he said.

In addition, Brimstein noted, the district continues looking for ways to be more efficient and is open to any cost-saving suggestions people may have.

Later in the meeting, district resident Kelly Lafranca told the board that her son, who attends Seton Catholic, incurred a concussion and knee injury there, and though his ailments were not life threatening, the nurse’s presence was critical for him.

HARD TO ABSORB

Roach also spoke, pointing out that if the proposed reductions come to fruition, 50 members of the Peru Association of Teachers will have been cut over the last four years.

“We just can’t continue to do what we love to do at the same level, absorbing 50 positions over four years,” she said.

RETIREMENT INCENTIVE

In an effort to realize savings, the Peru Central will offer an early retirement incentive to three of its collective-bargaining groups.

Eligible members of the Civil Service Employee Association, Peru Association of Teachers and Peru Administrators Council who choose to retire at the end of this school year would receive increased payback for their unused sick time.

The district, however, could withdraw the offer if not enough people choose to accept it.

Email Ashleigh Livingston:alivingston@pressrepublican.com

+++++

WEIGH IN ON THE BUDGET 

The Peru Central School Board will hold its fifth budget workshop at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the High School Community Room. 

The public is welcome to offer input during the public comment periods.

 The board does not anticipate adopting a final spending package at the session.