Mayfield votes to lay off 6 teachers; pay freeze refused
MAYFIELD The Mayfield School Board voted Tuesday night to lay off six teachers as part of a plan to close a projected $1.6 million budget gap in next school year’s budget.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget would cut Mayfield’s school aid by $1.36 million, about 8 percent of the district’s $16.9 million budget. The cut equates to $1,919 per student.
Superintendent Paul Williamsen said unless Mayfield gets more state aid than currently projected, the district will likely lay off additional workers.
“I don’t hold out much hope that we’re going to get much more state aid,” Williamsen said. “I’m still $475,000 short toward closing our deficit, so we’ve still got some way to go.”
The layoffs approved by the school board are for one teacher each in secondary English, secondary social studies, art and music, as well as two elementary school teachers.
Other potential layoffs on tap for the district include the transportation and buildings and grounds supervisor, a part-time elementary reading instructor, a librarian and four teacher aides, as well as reducing a secondary science teacher from full- to part-time.
Williamsen said the district isn’t releasing the names of the individuals being laid off until the first week of April. He said some of the names mentioned by students and members of the public during Tuesday’s school board meeting were incorrect.
Mayfield had requested a pay freeze from its teachers’ union and custodial staff union as a means of lessening the layoffs. The proposed salary freeze for the teachers, which would have included their “step raises” and the salary percentage raise added to it, would have saved $332,000. Freezing the salaries of the custodians would have saved $102,000. Williamsen and the district’s other administrators have voluntarily taken a pay freeze.
Both unions rejected the freeze. Mayfield Teachers Association President Lisa Klena said the union was united in rejecting the freeze and a vote to consider it was “not close.” She said her members voted to begin discussions with the district on how to save money in other ways.
“We were offered to open our contract and freeze our salaries and freeze our steps. It was not taken lightly by the association. There was a long, lengthy discussion,” she said.
Williamsen said one area where the district is looking for savings is health insurance. He said the district’s health insurance costs are set to spike by 16.5 percent for the 2011-12 school year, a jump of $800,000.
Klena said her union does not want to change any of the provisions in its contract, including the health insurance policies the district is required to offer them, but if the district were to offer a less expensive health insurance plan in addition to the required plans as an option to employees, some might voluntarily take it, creating some savings.
Some of the deep cuts to programming at the district could be avoided if the Hudson River Black River Regulating District paid the taxes it owes. HRBRRD, one of Mayfield’s largest taxpayers, hasn’t paid its school taxes in the current or previous school years. It currently owes Mayfield $736,000 and will owe more than $1 million if it doesn’t pay its taxes for the next school year.
HRBRRD has been reeling from a funding crisis ever since a federal court ruled it could no longer charge fees to downstate hydroelectric power plants, which effectively cut off 80 percent of the revenue it used to pay its Hudson River-area property taxes. HRBRRD has been trying to charge five area counties for flood control benefits the agency and its dam provide in an attempt to generate more revenue, but the counties are fighting that move in court.