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Bath-area school district may cut jobs if state aid is slashed

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Bath-area school district may cut jobs if state aid is slashed

BATH — Regional School Unit 1 may eliminate jobs to cope with an expected state aid cut of at least $500,000, Superintendent William Shuttleworth said in an Oct. 23 letter to school district staff.

Shuttleworth said preliminary reports indicate the state may call for cuts of $50 million to $100 million from the Maine Department of Education, which could trickle down to at least $500,000 being cut from the Bath-area school unit.

"This is a very significant cut," the superintendent wrote. "Like most Maine school districts, RSU 1 does not have a contingency fund. Absorbing a cut of a half-million dollars cannot be made up by cutting field trips, text books and teaching supplies. All totaled, if we froze all spending today in these areas, it would save just a fraction of what we would need to balance our budget by June 2010."

Shuttleworth said cuts would have to come from staffing, and that personnel accounts for 80 percent of the school district budget.

If cuts are made, he said, the unit will adhere to contracts that require giving employees notice of between 45 and 120 days, depending on the specific collective bargaining agreement.

"If we laid staff off beginning March 1, 2010, we would have to lay off approximately 20 teachers and many support staff just to get to $366,000 in savings," Shuttleworth said. "Obviously, 20 teachers and support staff would cripple our efforts to continue our march toward educational excellence and trigger insecurity and morale issues."

He asked for recommendations from staff about savings that could be made in staffing, programs and other areas.

Shuttleworth on Tuesday said that while RSU 1's communities could be asked for more money to offset the expected gap in state aid, the notion would likely not be well received. "I can't go back to the taxpayers and ask for more money," he said, pointing out that unemployment is high and economic times are tough.

"I think the money has to come from two sources," Shuttleworth said. "It has to come within our budget, or the state has to make some decision about allowing us to furlough teachers, which would require state legislation – there has been some minor talk about that – or some other cost-saving techniques that haven't come up yet at the state level."

He acknowledged that layoffs would cause hard feelings.

"You're going to hear a lot of things in the public – it's just human nature – from teachers saying that I'm saving programs and not teachers, and that's probably true," Shuttleworth said. "But the bottom line is that my job is to provide education to kids. So yes, my goal from the very beginning is not to cut a single program."

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.