Norwich votes for 19 more layoffs

Norwich - Resident Ron Ward asked the Board of Education Tuesday to draw a picture of what a zero-increase school budget really would look like.

An hour later during a budget discussion, the board tried to oblige. The board voted unanimously to add a new list of $949,000 in cuts, which included $760,000 through the elimination of another 19 teaching positions, into its budget. Including Tuesday's cuts, the board has voted to eliminate 69.5 total positions to date, including 43 teaching positions and two administrators. In March, the board issued 71 layoff notices to non-tenured teachers.

To reach the City Council-mandated no-increase budget total of $62.5 million, the board would have to cut another $629,952 - another 17 teaching positions.

Class sizes in most cases next school year will be 30 students and higher.

Many of the large classes also will not have para-educators to assist the teachers, Superintendent Abby Dolliver said.

"We don't have the money," Dolliver said.

Greeneville and Bishop elementary schools will close. Thames River Academy alternative high school will move to Bishop, and Adult Education will move to the former high school building, a much smaller space for the already crowded program.

Four school unions and the nonunion employees have agreed to labor concessions, with combined savings totaling $113,000. But the Norwich Teachers League will not consider concessions until the City Council votes on the final city and school budget Monday. The teachers' union has a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, Dolliver said.

Other cuts approved Tuesday included delaying installing fiber optic cable to save $40,000, cutting health insurance contributions by $150,000 and incorporating savings from the five union concessions agreements.

Board members also discussed other possible cuts that could bring even more dramatic changes to the school system, including four-day school weeks with much longer hours, more redistricting and possibly higher class sizes and reducing the school year from 182 to the minimum allowed 180 days and reducing the current six professional development days.

But Dolliver cautioned that the board must keep some ideas on hold to prepare for a possibly worse budget year in 2011-12, when the state will have to make up for the loss of federal stimulus funds. This year, the state used federal money to cover 14 percent of school grants to cities and towns, money that won't be there next year.

School concessions to date:

• Custodians and maintainers, 27.5 employees: Wage freeze and an increase of 1 percent in health insurance premium share. Savings, $35,000.

• Secretaries, 25 employees: Wage freeze. Savings, $25,000.

• Administrators, 15 employees: three furlough days and 1 percent increase in health insurance premium. Savings, $24,000.

• Para-Educators, 87 employees: Negotiated into new contract, 2 percent salary increase, 1.5 increase in health insurance premiums. No additional savings. Figures incorporated into initial 2010-11 budget.

• Nurses, 18 employees: Wage freeze negotiated in new two-year contract. Savings, $21,000.

• Norwich Teachers League: No concessions at this time.


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