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District off ballot through 2013
“We are going to be able to keep our promise to the community and stay off the ballot through 2013,” said South-Western City Schools District Treasurer Hugh Garside.
At the Oct. 25 meeting, the board of education voted to approve the five-year forecast presented by Garside.
A forecast must be complete by each school district in October. Garside clarified it is not the district’s budget, but a planning tool.
According to the forecast, the district will end the fiscal year with a positive cash balance through 2013. By the end of fiscal year 2014, the district will have a deficit of $38 million. The deficit jumps to $90 million at the end of 2015.
Garside explained the revenue will likely decrease over the next few years. Revenue comes primarily from the state and property tax.
Garside said the district could see a 10 percent decrease in state funding as the state deficit climbs to $8 billion. A 10 percent funding decrease means a loss of $9 million a year for South-Western.
“We are hopeful that 10 percent state reduction won’t happen,” said Garside.
Garside also said the district anticipates real estate values decreasing over the next few years due to a record number of tax valuation reduction requests. The high number of foreclosures also affect the district’s revenue.
Last November, the voters approved a permanent 7.4-mill tax levy, which will generate $18.5 million a year for the district.
The district’s biggest expense comes from employee salaries and wages. Garside said the district has made an effort to cut costs in this area.
In fiscal year 2009/10, 66 positions were eliminated. Earlier this year, the district cut 49 more positions. According to the forecast, the elimination of the positions will save the district about $1.9 million a year.
After 2011, the forecast shows a two percent increase in base salaries.
In August, the district reached an agreement with South-Western Administrative Association (SWAA). The agreement included a base pay freeze. It also required union members to cover more of the cost on health and dental insurance.
In related news, the district is still negotiating contracts with the South-Western Education Association (SWEA). SWEA has approximately 1,400 members and consists mostly of teachers. Their contract expired on June 30.
SWEA President Rolla Beach said he could not comment of the exact terms of the agreement but said, “There is a deepening level of concern that an agreement has not been reached.”
Beach said the last bargaining session was held Oct. 19 under a federal mediator. The union has had three bargaining sessions with the district under a mediator. There are no sessions scheduled at this time.
“It is up to the federal mediator to take the next step,” said Beach.
Beach said the union members are part of the community and they do not feel appreciated for the sacrifices they have made.
When asked if there had been any talk of a strike, Beach said, “It would be premature to comment on that at this time.”
The board meeting was held in the Jazz Street Cafe at the Career Academy. Union members, wearing SWEA shirts, packed the room to show solidarity.
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