Thursday, March 23, 2000

School plan cuts main office staff

Idea to borrow $15M draws skepticism

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Public Schools would eliminate more than 10 percent of its central office staff in the first round of cuts after voters' rejection earlier this month of a tax increase, under a proposal by school administrators.

        The district would save $2 million by eliminating 30 of the about 260 central office positions through attrition and layoffs.

        District administrators also proposed borrowing $15 million, cutting an additional $3 million from unspecified areas and protecting key initiatives such as the early literacy program and the new teacher evaluation system.

        But at least one board member warned that the borrowing wasn't likely to win approval, which would require additional cuts by the administration.

        The administration's proposal was discussed during a working meeting of school board members and administrators Wednesday afternoon at district headquarters. No vote was taken at the meeting, although the board is expected to weigh in on the budget crisis during its next regularly scheduled board meeting on Monday, said district spokeswoman Jan Leslie.

        Board member Lynn Marmer said the proposal to borrow money to cover operating costs wasn't likely to pass board muster.

        “The board is not inclined to approve borrowing to cover operating costs,” said Ms. Marmer, chair of the board's finance committee.

        The board has told Superintendent Steven Adamowski to cut $20 million from his original proposal, a move to ensure the district doesn't incur additional debt. But his latest plan contained a total of only $5 million in cuts.

        CPS Treasurer Richard Gardner said the next step is for the board to confirm the level of cuts its wants administrators to make. A special budget commission will meet through April to work on the scaled-back spending plan. Mr. Gardner said the board hopes to approve the budget by April, although law doesn't require final approval until October.

        The shortfall was caused when voters on March 7 defeated a levy proposal that would have raised $38 million a year.

        The original proposed budget called for nearly $377 million in spending, $315 million of which is required either by state regulations or contracts with teachers and other staff.

        Administrators had already slashed $20 million in spending last spring, affecting areas from textbooks to teacher staff.

        Administrators who will be reassigned or laid off will be notified before the end of the week, and everyone affected by the layoffs will hear something by the end of next week, said Mr. Gardner.

        This is just the latest round of cuts at the central office. Mr. Gardner said the central office had a staff of 600 people in 1989.


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