Springfield eyes $1M school cut
By Kevin O’Connor
Staff Writer | January 15,2014
SPRINGFIELD — This town’s School Board is considering cutting nearly two dozen teachers and support staffers to save residents almost $1 million from tax bills that otherwise could skyrocket.
“Obviously the impact is as large as the number of people,” Superintendent Zachary McLaughlin said. “But when we saw what the potential tax increases were going to be, we started contemplating worst-case scenarios.”
With a proposed $960,376 in cuts to the 1,450-student, 359-employee pre-K-12 system, a household with a $280,000 home and $115,000 income would still see its school taxes rise this coming academic year by $174. But without any reductions, the increase would double to $352.
“This is not a pleasant experience for anyone,” School Board Chairwoman Jeanice Garfield said. “It’s important for the community to come out and talk to us.”
As a result, the board will hold a special public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Springfield High School library.
Under the proposal, the grade K-2 Elm Hill primary school faces $208,510 in cuts, including two classroom teachers, two paraeducators and a mental health clinician, leading average class sizes to rise from 18 to 20.5.
The grade 3-5 Union Street elementary school faces $150,570 in cuts, including four paraeducators and a mental health clinician, leading average class sizes to rise to 22.
The grade 6-8 Riverside Middle School faces $243,992 in cuts, including one world language teacher, half-time teachers for language arts, math, science and social studies, and one half-time and two full-time paraeducators, leading average class sizes to rise from 17.47 to 24.67.
(The middle school cut would require the hiring of a half-time library clerk, the superintendent said, “because in order to fill the schedule with some of these cuts, the librarian will have to teach for half of the day.”)
And the grade 9-12 Springfield High School faces $270,396 in cuts, including one social studies teacher, half-time teachers for English, math and Russian, one instructional assistant and the elimination of the Precision Valley alternative education program for students in danger of dropping out.
The high school cut would force the elimination of the current four-year social studies requirement, as well as Advanced Placement math and Russian programs.
With all the cuts — which also include the $74,000 loss of an evening maintenance supervisor — the coming budget would increase just $8,233 from the current year’s $28 million but still require a tax increase of 6.2 cents because of changing local variables in a complex state formula.
Based on preliminary response, the School Board isn’t happy with any option. At a meeting Monday, member Joseph “Bill” Harbeson noted that depending on individual decisions to retire or relocate, up to 23 people could be losing their livelihoods.
The superintendent responded: “We’ll be discussing positions and not names because it’s not personality-based choices. We employ the same number but we’ve lost 100 students. It may lead to some beloved people being cut, but this is not about emotion, this is about how we run the system we have in place.”