By John J. Hopkins
The Tonawanda News
TOWN OF TONAWANDA —
Administrators in the Ken-Ton school district agreed to a three-year contract that eliminates guaranteed 4 percent “step” increases in a deal that’s being called “historic” for New York state.
Despite the contract with the Kenmore Administrators’ Association — unanimously approved at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting — the district is still facing a nearly $12.5 million budget gap for the 2012-13 academic year.
To close that chasm in the $150 million budget, the school board will consider several reductions. Among the most notable are cutting 25 teachers, restructuring kindergarten and middle school, increasing the tax levy and making cuts to the support staff.
Board President Bob Dana advised the large crowd that “nothing will be decided,” at Tuesday’s meeting, adding that some of the suggestions heard Tuesday came from the public through a district questionnaire.
Superintendent Mark Mondanaro said the district has lost $9.3 million in non-building state aid since the 2008-09 school year. He said Ken-Ton won’t see that money coming back.
“The governor is talking from a point of reduction,” said Mondanaro. “The public needs to keep that in mind.”
Cutting 25 full time equivalent teaching positions would raise class sizes by one student across the board and could save nearly $1.75 million. The expected retirements of nine additional teachers would save another $450,000.
Increasing the district’s tax levy to raise an additional $1,862,000, would add $120 to the bill on a property valued at $100,000.
Restructuring kindergarten would involve maintaining a full day and produce $455,000. However, only half of the day would feature teacher instruction; during the other half of the day kindergartners would get “direction” on social and other non-instructional skills from non-instruction personnel.
Keeping kindergartners for the full school day was important, Mondanaro said, “because “it doesn’t have the same draconian effect that a half-day has.”
About a dozen residents spoke out against certain cuts. Many said they understand that the district needs to make deep cuts, but raised concerns for the kindergarten program and proposals that would cut summer school, and elementary health education.
“I’d rather pay for something than see the staff and the education part go away,” said resident Mary Lynch.
A plan to “departmentalize” the middle school, to schedule students by course requests rather than teams of teachers and course requirements, would save $700,000. Proposed cuts to support staff would save $324,000.
Meanwhile, under terms of the KAA contract, future raises will no longer be automatic via salary step increases. Instead, they must be negotiated as part of contractual agreements. Administrators also agreed to: Increase their health care contributions from 6 percent to 10 percent by 2014, reductions in “self-insured” benefits, give back three professional days, and agreed to an average salary increase of 1.8 percent over the course of the contract.
The 24-member KAA represents principals, assistant principals, program supervisors, the director of athletics, and the director of data and research. They unanimously OK’d the pact.
“This is a historic contract that will have a major impact not only here in Western New York, but across New York state,” said Mondanaro. “I commend the KAA for respecting and understanding the harsh economic realities facing our district because of massive education cuts coming from Albany.”