Broadalbin school district seeks pay freeze to prevent layoffs

The Broadalbin-Perth Central School District Board of Education has proposed a one-year pay freeze t

The Broadalbin-Perth Central School District Board of Education has proposed a one-year pay freeze to its employee unions, hoping to save $515,901 and avoid double-digit teacher layoffs for the 2010-11 school budget.

District officials have proposed a $27.8 million budget that would cut spending slightly from last year while increasing the property tax levy by 8 percent. Even after the tax increase, the district faces a $1.2 million budget gap, thanks in large part to a $1.4 million state aid cut proposed by Gov. David Paterson.

To close the gap, the district administration is considering laying off up to 10 staff members and leaving eight positions vacant after retirements. Cutting the 18 positions is expected to save $991,912 in salaries and benefits.

The 10 employees who might be laid off include five elementary teachers, one foreign language teacher, one biology teacher, one social studies teacher, one English teacher and one school social worker. Staff retirements include five teachers and two bus drivers.

Superintendent Steve Tomlinson said the cuts would result in larger class sizes at the elementary level, up to 27 to 28 pupils per class, reduced remedial reading services, larger high school classes and upper-level Spanish classes being offered only through distance learning. They would also reduce music instruction at the district’s “Learning Community” to one 30-minute class per week instead of the two 30-minute periods now offered.

“If these layoffs come to fruition, Broadalbin-Perth will be at a critical breaking point,” Tomlinson said. “We will have eliminated 90 percent of the college-level courses at the high school and there will be no enhancement of any programs in the district. We will be at a basic level of education next year.”

The wage freeze proposal could save five to seven of the cut positions, according to district officials. The proposal also includes a guarantee that the savings would not be used to lower the district’s tax levy.

Officials from the Broadalbin-Perth Teachers Association did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

A similar wage freeze proposal was rejected by the teachers’ union in Mayfield earlier this year.

Paterson has also proposed a wage freeze for state employees. Public employee union contracts are protected by the state’s Taylor Law and its Triborough Amendent, which mandates that all of the provisions of the contract remain in place even after the contract expires. The laws make it nearly impossible to extract contract concessions from public employee unions without their consent.

School district officials warn that next year’s budget cuts could be deeper than this year’s.

“So far, we’ve been able to avoid making any impact on athletics, art or music, but if the economy stays the way it is and state aid remains flat, we’ll be looking at another $500,000 to $700,000 budget gap again next year. At that point, we wouldn’t be able to just pick and choose what non-mandated programs we cut, like just cutting modified sports,” Tomlinson said. “We would have to look at completely eliminating sports and clubs and reducing our art and music programs to the state-mandated level.”

The Broadalbin-Perth Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the abolition of the 10 staff positions at its next board meeting April 19.

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