Eagle County Schools could declare ‘fiscal emergency’ | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Schools could declare ‘fiscal emergency’

EAGLE, Colorado – The school board could declare it’s in a “fiscal emergency” at Wednesday’s meeting, and could act on a list of job cuts as soon as Feb. 29.

The district could cut up to 100 jobs, part of bridging a $5.5 million budget shortfall that it says stems from state funding cuts.

“We will honor 2011-12 contracts that run through the end of the school year, and they will continue to receive pay and benefits through August,” said Dr. Brian Childress, the school district’s human resources director. “If we are canceling positions for the 2012-13 school year, we want to be as respectful as we can to our employees. Early notification gives them the chance to be out in front of the hiring cycle.”

If the school board passes a resolution drafted for it, a list of employees’ names of and positions would be presented for the board to cut, the school district said. The school board would get that list at its Feb. 29 meeting.

The school board put its Reduction in Force (RIF) policy in place in December after voters rejected its proposed property tax increase. Under that four-step process and policy, tenure and seniority will no longer protect teachers.

There is no criteria for declaring a fiscal emergency, and the school board could declare it to cut as few as one employee, district officials said.

“There is not a minimum level for declaring a Fiscal Emergency or conducting a RIF,” district officials said. “A district may choose to declare a Fiscal Emergency and RIF one employee.”

State law requires that the district declare its fiscal emergency by March 1.

In the past, jobs cuts were handled largely through attrition, said Dr. Brian Childress, the school district’s human resources director.

“This will be the first year ever that a Reduction in Force will be utilized,” Tanya Caruso, head of the local teachers union said in an email. She’s a reading teacher at Avon Elementary School.

The Eagle County Education Association agreed to a 1.5 percent pay cut, Caruso said. That’s from the school district cutting three days from the school calendar.

“We do not feel anyone could survive here with more than that,” Caruso said.

The number of job cuts will also depend on the other school board decisions such as salaries for administrators, master/mentor stipends, buses, fees and other line items, Caruso said.

“The attrition (turnover) every year is very large, so hopefully most of the layoffs will be absorbed by attrition,” Caruso said.

The union agrees that the school district’s fiscal emergency is real.

“We just hope that the board finds money in the budget beyond our salaries and jobs,” Caruso said.

Eighty percent of the school district’s budget is spent on personnel, said Dr. Sandra Smyser, school district superintendent.

Wednesday’s Eagle County school board meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. with a work session. The regular session begins at 6 p.m. The meeting will be at the Eagle County Building, 500 Broadway, in Eagle. The school board is holding its meetings at larger venues to accommodate the size of the crowds at the budget meetings

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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