Mohonasen school board considers cutting 20 positions

District facing $2 million budget gap
Mohonasen Superintendent Shannon Shine is pictured in September.
Mohonasen Superintendent Shannon Shine is pictured in September.

ROTTERDAM — The school board of the Mohonasen Central School District on Monday will consider eliminating 20 district positions, including elementary school teachers, music educators, assistant principals and jobs in nearly every part of the district.

The proposed budget cuts for the 2019-2020 school year come as the district grapples with a $2 million budget gap driven by rising drug prescription costs and compounded by a heavy reliance on reserve spending to cover end-of-year deficits in recent years.

The cuts, which Superintendent Shannon Shine presented to the school board earlier this month, will be up for discussion again at a board meeting Monday night. The proposed cuts are in addition to a 3.8 percent tax levy increase – the maximum levy increase the district can ask voters to approve on a simple majority vote.

“We literally have no capacity in the budget,” Shine said.

In a Thursday interview, Shine outlined the proposed cuts:

  • Six elementary schools teachers, resulting in class sizes increasing to between 25 and 29 students;

  • Three high school teaching positions;

  • Two administrative positions, eliminating assistant principals at the primary level;

  • Nearly two music teachers, delaying the start of strings education and cutting back on small-group lessons;

  • Half-time of an art teacher;

  • Two security monitors;

  • One IT specialist, one secretary, one auto mechanic, one central office account clerk and one or two cleaners.

Shine said employees have been notified of the budget proposal. Staff in some of the eliminated positions would shift to fill other positions in the district. Shine also announced retirement incentives, which could reach $20,000 a retiree if enough teachers agree to retire. The retirements would help reduce staff with minimal layoffs. Known retirements account for at least seven of the positions proposed for elimination, he said.

“With this many cuts, we would really like it to be through attrition so people don’t lose their jobs,” Shine said.

Two years ago the district, then under Superintendent Kathleen Spring, added about a dozen positions, restoring jobs that had been eliminated during budget cuts connected to the recession. But nearly all of those positions were rolled back in the current school year’s budget after optimistic projections from the year before failed to materialize.

Shine attributed the district’s budget woes to the planned use of $850,000 in district reserves – money that had been set aside to pay for employee pension contributions – and the assumptions that prescription drug costs would slow and state education aid would pick up.

“Neither of those causes for optimism played out,” Shine said.

The proposed cuts account for about $1.6 million of the $2 million gap, with another planned draw from reserves covering the difference. While the district’s longer-term budget outlook remains unclear, Shine said he hoped the dose of tough cuts this year would prevent more dire cuts in the future.

“I have advised the board we should not piecemeal this, we should make the cuts now to avoid having to do this every year,” Shine said.

The Mohonasen school board is scheduled to meet to discuss its budget Monday at the high school at 7 p.m. The board is expected to adopt a budget at meeting in April, with the budget up for voter approval May 21.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

Leave a Reply