File photo - Mayfield Central School Superintendent Paul Williamsen, left, and board of education member Ernest Clapper go over their notes at a previous board meeting held in the high school library.
For the Express
MAYFIELD — The Mayfield Central School District voted to eliminate 10 positions last Tuesday, but school officials say more cuts and reductions are still needed in the face of massive cuts in revenue.
In addition, the district voted not to refill the supervisor of buildings position after the current employee retired.
Mayfield Board of Education President Robert Suits said barring a sudden cash infusion, more cuts are looming.
“We have two more meetings coming up and still have more cuts to make in order to get down to a reasonable tax rate,” he said. “It’s tough really. You hate to do it, but we are really being forced to.”
Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal, Mayfield will lose $1.36 million in state aid, which makes up about 8 percent of the district’s $16.9 million budget. The aid cut equates to about $1,919 per student.
To make matters worse, the district is owed nearly $740,000 in back taxes from the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District. The school — along with two other school districts and Fulton County, all of whom are also owed back taxes — is suing the state and the district.
School board member Ernest Clapper called the teachers being laid off “victims of a perfect storm.”
In a passionate speech given on behalf of those let go at Tuesday’s meeting, Clapper told a crowd of more than 100 people, “It’s nothing to do with what they’ve done ... we would rehire them in a heartbeat.”
The board voted to eliminate two elementary positions, a district art position, a district music position, a half-time elementary reading position, a high school English position, a high school social studies position, a district librarian position, a half-time guidance counselor position and a half-time high school science position.
The names of the teachers being let go will not be released by the school until after April 1.
District Superintendent Paul G. Williamsen, who has taken a voluntary salary freeze himself, said the cuts were made because of increasing costs, declining enrollment and the significant financial constraints the district is facing next year. If the district did nothing to reduce its deficit and passed a budget today as is, the school tax rate would have to be increased by more than 25 percent, he said.
An earlier request to the district’s teacher and custodial staff unions to freeze their current pay proved unsuccessful as both unions rejected the request. The raises included in both contracts will total nearly $435,000 in the 2011-12 school budget.
Since the salaries are contractually binding, they can only be re-opened voluntarily by the unions. Mayfield Teachers Association President Lisa Klena said her members held a meeting to discuss skipping their step-up pay raises and freeze their current salaries, but it was voted down.
“We had a very lengthy, lengthy discussion. Every member had a chance to speak,” she said. “It was done through a secret ballo.t ... It wasn’t very close.”
Klena said that when her union was approached with the pay freeze, they were not asked to the negotiating table to discuss other alternatives or proposals. Furthermore, she said the union was told there would be no guarantees of saving jobs by rejecting raises and holding down salaries.
After voting down the pay freeze, the teacher’s union passed a second vote to find other ways to give something back financially to the district, according to Klena. She said a bargaining unit has been working on proposals since February.
“We feel terrible about this, and we hate to see our colleagues lose their jobs, but we knew this was a possibility,” said Klena. “We are trying to find a creative way that spares teachers and gives something back that helps the district.”
The Mayfield Teacher’s Union is in the final year of its contract with the district. Klena said the teachers being let go have been notified, but said there are possible retirements that could affect who is laid off.
“It’s kind of a wait and see at this point,” she said.
Suits said it is a disappointing situation and that talented professionals may be lost as a result.
“Unfortunately, you may have a good teacher,” he said, “but we can’t pick and choose the teacher to fire.”
When asked if restoring positions or rehiring teachers was possible if funding was restored or back taxes from HRBRRD were recovered, Suits replied, “We would have to discuss that as a board.”
Linda Kessler contributed to this report.