Skyrocketing Labor Costs Force Job Cuts at MPS

MacIver News Service – [Milwaukee, Wisc…] Excessive fringe benefit costs, which have driven the average teacher compensation in Milwaukee Public Schools to more than $100,000 a year, could lead to the elimination of 682 positions within the district next year.

“We must control costs,” said MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos, “The benefit rate we project for next year is more than 74%. The district cannot sustain that. We are providing millions for benefits that we could be using to keep teaching staff and buy supplies.”

Andrekopoulos, who is retiring at the end of the school year, submitted his final budget to the MPS School Board Thursday.

MacIver News first broke the story of the $100,000 plus compensation level in early March. (See it here.)

According to the District, every job category will be cut. Of the 682 positions proposed to be cut, about 260 are teaching positions, amounting to 4.5% of the teaching staff. Other employee groups will take proportionally larger cuts. The number of general education assistant positions, for example, would decline by 87, or 32.7%; there would be 22.9 fewer assistant principal positions, a decline of 16.7%; the number of technical and administrative jobs would drop by 37.3, or 12.7%; and there would be 95.5 fewer paraprofessional positions, a drop of 10.1%.

“This is a painful chapter in MPS history,” said Andrekopoulos. “The decision to cut positions was made with great reluctance because of the pain it inflicts on families and the adverse effect on district services.”

The budget allots up to  $1 million for outplacement services and retraining for employees who lose their jobs.

The MPS Board will review the budget and deliberate during the month of May, with expected adoption of a spending plan sometime in June.

Complicating matters, the one-time federal stimulus dollars which filled the holes left by state aid cuts, have created a dangerous funding cliff for MPS and school districts across Wisconsin. (See our previous funding cliff story here.)

“The state, in dealing with its own financial problems, used federal stimulus funding to fill holes in the equalization aid budget,” said Andrekopoulos referring to $47 million in one time stimulus funding. “We don’t know what the state’s revenue picture will be in FY12 or whether current aid levels will be maintained.”

The Board’s Committee on Strategic Planning and Budget is scheduled to hold public hearings on the Superintendent’s proposed FY11 budget at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 4, 2010, and Thursday, May 6, 2010, and at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 11, 2010, and Thursday, May 13, 2010.

Thursday, May 20, 2010, is the tentative date for the Board’s statutory public hearing on the FY11 proposed budge and the Board is tentatively scheduled to adopt a final budget on Thursday, June 3, 2010. Meetings begin at 6:30 p.m., and are held in the auditorium of MPS Central Services, 5225 W. Vliet Street