Staff cuts coming to DPS after school board approves budget reductions for next year

DECATUR--The Decatur School Board decided where to make millions of dollars in cuts within the district at a special meeting Sunday, and some teaching positions will be eliminated.

Initially DPS predicted $2.2 million in budget reductions would be needed to offset the decrease in state funding the district is expecting next year. Officials were able to bring that number down to $1.8 million, but it was not enough to avoid staff cuts.

Decatur's middle schools will have eight fewer teachers come fall of 2015. That's less than the 12 positions originally on the chopping block. But still a blow to the district, as it attempts to reduce its budget.

"The hardest piece for us will be the middle school cuts," said superintendent, Lisa Taylor.

"Unfortunately what happens is when we don't have the money we have to lose programs, we sometimes have to bring more kids into the classroom, there are good people that we may not be able to keep," said school board president, Brian Hodges.

But some programs the Decatur Public School district initially considered cutting will be kept. Instead of being eliminated entirely, the Phoenix Academy will move to the former Tech Academy building, and work alongside the Miligan Academy with the hope of consolidating the two alternative education programs in the future.

Also sticking around for now is the Industrial Tech program, although staffing will be streamlined to one teacher who will split time between the high schools. Overall the cuts, approved unanimously by the school board at its special meeting Sunday, will save the district around $1.4 million, but that's still a few hundred thousand dollars short.

"For us it's about $400,000, a little bit more than that. That's okay, we can deal with that," said Hodges. "The component is what's going to happen later on."

"We're always tightening our belts and are at kind of a critical state where there's nothing left above personnel," said Taylor. "It really comes down to people at this point and that's a very tough decision for districts and it impacts kids."

District officials warned that more cuts could come in future years, but it's all dependent on how much aid DPS receives from the state.

The district won't know exactly how much funding it is getting from the state until July or August, but needed to make a decision on next year's spending now.

The school board will vote on how to handle those personnel cuts at it's next meeting on March 24th.
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