In Utica Community Schools first round of budget cuts, in an effort to slash more than $10 million from its operating costs, the School Board of Education agreed to eliminate 38 positions.
Last week's $1.1 million cut to the current budget translates to a loss of 38.5 jobs, according to UCS Representative Tim McAvoy.
The groups most affected by the cuts are the district's paraprofessionals, which lost 26 positions.
- 17 elementary school positions eliminated
- 7 junior high school positions eliminated
- 2 campus aides eliminated
Other positions eliminated:
- 2 security staff members
- 10.5 clerical positions (two which were already vacant)
As part of the cuts, non-affiliated employees such as noon-hour aides will be moved to 3rd party contractors and UCS will no longer have to pay their retirement costs.
Michelle Schimelfening, president of the Utica Paraprofessional Association, said in addition to the layoffs, the district has capped all 260 of the districts paraprofessionals hours to 5 per day, which will cause employees who worked 6 hours or more to lose vision coverage and will affect their retirement credits.
"The people who were planning on retiring next year won’t be able to," said Schimelfening.
Schimelfening said she feels the UPPA, which often aides the most critical children, has been unfairly targeted.
"I feel its retribution because the special education millage didn’t pass during the last election."
However, McAvoy said the first rounds of cuts are just the beginning for the state's second largest school district, which is operating at revenue levels, similar to the 2005 and 2006 school year.
"We, like all school districts, need to address our economic reality and our long-term structural issues related to the gap in expenditures over revenue," said McAvoy.
Between now and July 1, UCS will be cutting another $10.6 million from the budget.
"I hate to say it, but the elephant in the room is they (UCS) are going to have to go after teachers next," speculated Schimelfening.
McAvoy would not confirm that teacher layoffs are in the works. However, he did say, "This is a process we’ll have to go through. We continue to look at all avenues."
Schimelfening said she understands that tough times call for tough decisions but she can't understand why the district continues to cut paraprofessionals who on average make $14 an hour, yet administrators continue to receive bonuses and raises.
"I know they have to do something and maybe some programs have to be eliminated, but the money cut would be the equivalent of two administrators salaries," she said. "Administrators make a lot of money."
McAvoy said he doesn't know of any adminstrators getting raises at this point in time.
The UCS School Board meets the 2nd and 4th Monday of the month.