Panel Approves Budget, Union Negotiations Will Determine Number of Layoffs
MacIver News Service [Milwaukee, Wisc] The Milwaukee Public Schools Board of Directors approved a 2010-2011 budget Thursday night that will bridge a $33 million operating deficit through a combination of layoffs and employee furloughs.
The Board did not amend the Superintendent’s proposed budget to cut administrative costs or non-classroom personnel, however they did make some alterations to his proposal. They included new expenditures to finance new audio/visual equipment for their meeting space and added two new labor negotiator positions.
The Board shot down a budget amendment Thursday night that would have traded a position in the superintendent’s office for four positions in the classroom.
Director Annie Woodward proposed the amendment, and was the only member of the board to vote for it. She would have eliminated the position of administrative coordinator, which draws a salary of $99,129 plus $73,554 in benefits. According to Woodward, that’s enough to pay for four para-professionals, who work directly with students in the classroom.
Currently, there are four people who work in the superintendent’s office, including the superintendent. Three new positions are being added to the office next year, at the request of Dr. Thornton, who is bringing some of his own people with him to MPS. MacIver News Service previously reported previously how he and the Board will be doubling the Superintendent’s office’s budget next year.
“The board would be making a serious mistake to eliminate this position,” William Andrekopolous, the outgoing MPS superintendent, pleaded with the board. He said the position is important to Dr. Thornton, who becomes MPS’s superintendent on July 1st.
“This position in the superintendent’s office is critical. There’s a highly skilled individual in this position. I’ve had two conversations in the past 48 hours with Dr. Thornton. This person has been a key in his transitioning to the district and a key in his vision in how to coordinate and run the superintendent’s office,” Andrekopolous said. “You have a new superintendent coming in and this is not the message you want to send this superintendent.”
Director Woodward said in support of her amendment, “With this many people in this office, I just see that somewhere down the line we’re going to have to cut back.”
Andrekopolous argued, “Over the years I have made cuts in the superintendent’s office. We have cut other administrative positions out of the superintendent’s office and clerical staff out of the superintendent’s office.”
Before voting against the amendment Director Terry Falk said, “We’re bringing in a new superintendent and I want to give him enough rope to either lasso the problems and bring them in, or enough rope to hang himself.”
The Board voted to spend $10,000 for audio-visual upgrades to their meeting space in the central office auditorium, after Board President Michael Bonds trimmed the original request for $300,000.
The current a/v system used by the Board is only two years old and includes a microphone system, video cameras and data projectors.
“Everything is new, including the wiring. The only thing we did not replace is the screens,” said James Davis, MPS Technology Director.
Ten thousand dollars would be enough to replace the screens.
“I think the main request for upgrading the system has to do with moving to the electronic school board format, and problems that we are having with the screens,” said Board Clerk Lynne Sobzak. “If we do move to an electronic format, the plan is to remove the central screens and replace them with monitors on the sides, so the public could follow along with the electronic system.”
Allowing the public in attendance to see what Board members see is the stated reason for the purchase, although it may lead to even more expenditures in the future.
“Our tentative plan would be to do exactly that. We would probably assure that board members would have individual laptops in front of them so they could do video presentations,”said Davis.
The board voted 8 to 1 in favor of the amendment. Director Tim Petersons voted against it.
The total number of layoffs, including those of teachers, will depend on labor negotiations. The District is attempting to get the teachers’union to accept a lower-cost health insurance plan.
Perhaps sensing difficulties in those negotiations, the Board also added two new labor relation positions to the District’s Department of Accountability
The board passed the amended superintendent’s proposed $1.34 billion budget by a 6 to 2 vote. Directors Woodward and Tim Petersons voted against it, and Director David Voeltner voted present.
By Bill Osmulski
MacIver News Service