For the third consecutive year, the Lawrence School District is proposing to reduce staff as part of an effort to deal with a budget deficit — and for the second straight year, the deficit totals $3.2 million.
District officials said that up to 15 certified employees — teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists — and up to 10 non-certified employees — custodians, grounds crew and other support staff — could be laid off in order to reduce the shortfall, which school officials attribute to a $2 million increase in pension and health care costs for retirees, along with a $1.2 million increase in payroll and contract raises.
The Lawrence district’s current budget is $93.1 million, which is the same as in 2011-12. For the proposed 2013-14 budget, the district must increase its tax levy to compensate for the pension and payroll expense increases, but plans to keep its tax-levy increase within the 2 percent tax cap.
According to Superintendent Gary Schall, the preliminary spending plan for 2013-14 will be $1 million smaller — $92.1 million — so that it, too, will be below the tax-levy cap.
Of the potential layoffs, Schall said, “We will be able to project more accurately about the positions after we see who is retiring.” The deadline for employees to submit their retirement applications is April 1.
Lawrence Teachers Association officials said they believe that 11 of the 15 certified employees who could be laid off may be LTA members — teachers and social workers. LTA President Lori Skonberg said that the elimination of staff positions has not been good for students. Skonberg explained that in 2011, when 11 special education teachers were cut, and in 2012, when nine pre-kindergarten teachers were cut, those veteran instructors were replaced by inexperienced ones who were not LTA members.
“Because of the lower salary and lack of benefits,” she said, “these contracted-out teachers are continuously on the lookout for greener pastures, leading to a revolving door and lack of continuity for district children.”