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District cuts about 38 jobs

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By Jesef Williams

Some employees are losing their jobs due to funding cuts in the Lancaster County School District’s new budget.

The school board adopted the $65.9 million budget for 2009-10 on Tuesday night. The vote was 5-0.

Board members Peter Barry and Bobby Parker were absent.

The budget calls for the elimination of nearly 38 positions, 25.5 of which are teaching posts.

An assistant principal, two instructional specialists and six counselors will also be cut, said district finance director Tony Walker.

Many of the reductions come through unfilled vacancies, retirement or personnel shifts, while some employees were terminated due to funding, Walker said.

“Some people lost their jobs,” he said.

Board chairwoman Charlene McGriff was relieved to see Gov. Mark Sanford’s acceptance of the $4.3 million in stimulus money allocated for Lancaster County School District in the new budget.

If the money did not come through, McGriff said officials would have been “back to the table” figuring out where to cut next. More people would have lost jobs, she said.

“It was going to be really bad,” McGriff said. “We knew we were going to lose critical positions.”

Walker said he had built the stimulus money into the initial draft of the budget, hoping the funding would come through.

However, at that time, the 2009-10 budget was $76.2 million.

The difference from May to June is the updated projection on the local tax mill value.

Local property has been assessed at a lower rate, resulting in less money coming in, Walker said.

To make up for that loss, district officials went back and cut an extra $100,000 from substitute teacher pay, $152,000 in fringe benefits and $36,000 in expenses from the district’s cleaning contract, among other reductions.

The district is also dipping into more of its equity to sew up the shortfall.

Taxes

Homeowners will pay a little less this year compared to the year before on their residential property taxes. Because of a 5-mill decrease on the district’s debt services (which includes all assessed property), the owner of a $100,000 home will pay about $154 in taxes, Walker said.

There is a 5-mill increase for the district’s general operations. However, owners of other property besides residences will not see an increase because of the 5-mill drop on the debt service side, Walker said.

That’s because residential property is not included in the district’s general operation side for tax purposes.

Next budget year

Walker looks forward to a stronger economy when it’s time to write the 2010-11 budget. The pots of money are drying up, he said.

“This is the tightest budget I have ever built,” Walker said. “It is going to be a tough year.”

Contact reporter  Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152