Cass school board crafting cuts

Published 7:54 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Cassopolis school board proposed cutting 15 percent of its non-sport extracurricular activity budget Monday night in an effort to slash its $1.34 million deficit.
The district has proposed cutting the fall play production; yearbook adviser (the yearbook will be a class next year); elementary music and drama director; Afro and Spanish clubs; and pep band to save $12,810.
The most controversial debate thus far in the board’s plan to cut $878,344, however, is the proposed privatization of support staff.
Tricia Gaideski, director of finance, said that in the proposed plan, the district would have outside companies provide the district’s custodial, transportation, secretarial and non-instructional paraprofessional staff. Cutting custodial would save $78,000; secretarial, $72,100; and paraprofessionals, $14,700. Bids have not been received yet for transportation.
Three citizens voiced their opposition to the proposal.
“The proposed cuts seem to affect only the support staff and extracurricular activities,” Secretary Loretta Bowers said.
Roy Freeman, of Eau Claire, said private companies “bring in individuals who do not care if they are here or not.”
He claimed staff hired by a private company stay an average of six weeks, and only 30 percent of present district employees will be hired.
“You’re taking money out of the community,” Freeman said to the board members. “You are going to devastate this town.”
By privatizing these support positions, the district would save retirement and health benefit costs,” Gaideski said. District employees affected by the privatization would have the option to apply for these companies, which offer benefits.
Jeanne Garber, of Vandalia, estimated that 75 percent of the service employee staff lives in the district, and far fewer teachers live in the district. If employees who live in the district are fired, they might have a negative effect on district elections.
“If someone fired you, would you go back and say, ‘Hey, I’ll help you out?’” Garber asked. “Some of us pay really high taxes.”
She says the “children first” sentiment was once felt in the district, but “it isn’t anymore.”
More cost-saving measures proposed, among many others, include:
• Hard caps on insurance for 2013-14, a savings of $143,256 with all proposed cuts and changes to existing staff
• Propose buyouts to seven teachers; about 25 are eligible to retire
The school board must approve the proposed cuts by the end of June, Gaideski said.