Board slices budget again: 5 positions cut, another five reduced to part-time.

T he Whitehall Board of Education has achieved its goal of complying with the 2-percent tax cap after approving another round of cuts last week.

The board voted to eliminate or abolish five positions and reduce five other full-time positions to part-time.

The cuts are expected to save the district $272,835 and come a month after the board approved the elimination or reduction of eight other positions.

In total, the district has cut $693,894.

Those cuts, coupled with the use of monies from the fund balance and the announcement last month that the state would restore $22,000 in aid, enables the district to close a $778,000 deficit and will result in a 1.98 percent increase in taxes.

The 2012-13 budget, which has yet to be finalized, tops out at $13,205,125, a decrease of $257,963 or 1.92 percent from last year.

The latest round of cuts include one math teacher, a part-time English teacher, a part-time science teacher, an assistant wrestling coach and an assistant football coach.

The part-time English and part-time science posts are filled by staff who are expected to retire at end of the year and those positions will be eliminated at the end of the year.

Additional cuts were made by reducing five full-time positions to part-time. They included the reduction of physical education teacher to 50 percent, an elementary school librarian to 60 percent, a foreign language teacher to 60 percent, a speech teacher to 50 percent, and the elementary school principal to 60 percent.

Before making the recommendations, Superintendent James Watson described the process as painful.

“There is not a one on this list that hasn’t been done without pain,” he said. “When we started we wondered how we were going to do it and it’s fallen on the back of the people who make this school system successful.”

“I would like to commend the board for the tough decisions they made.”

Virginia Rivette, vice president of the Board of Education, expressed the difficulty with which the board made the cuts.

“It’s not numbers, these are actual people,” she said.

Last month the board cut the equivalent of 4.2 full-time instructional positions and 1.8 noninstructional positions. The latest round of cuts equates to an additional three full-time instructional positions, two coaches, and .4 administrative positions.

Unfortunately the cuts are nothing new for the district.

Over the last four budget cycles, the district has made more than $2.5 million in cuts with a majority of that money coming from the reduction or elimination of personnel and staffing.

The board was able to avoid cutting any instructional programs.

Class sizes, especially in fifth and sixth grade, are expected to increase, perhaps by as much as one-third.

Watson said the district has already made contact with neighboring districts, such as Fort Ann and Granville, to discuss whether it would be possible to share some part-time positions, which would help preserve programs and possibly allow some teachers to maintain additional hours.

Although the district is finished making cuts, Watson said money will still have to be moved around before the administration can finalize the budget and present it to the Board of Education.

He said the district actually had the option of exceeding 2 percent because the tax cap includes exclusions for things such as capital projects. The district could have actually increased taxes by 2.6 percent but chose instead to roll over that exclusion to next year.

“Two weeks ago we stopped worrying about this year and started looking at next year,” Watson said, adding that the forecast doesn’t look good.

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