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West Aurora readying for teacher layoffs



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Updated: March 22, 2013 10:25AM

AURORA — With uncertain financial projections coming from the state and federal governments, the West Aurora School District is preparing for a round of teacher layoffs that could be announced as soon as next month.

Chief Financial Officer Christi Tyler said that looming federal budget discussions could have a large impact on school districts. West could be faced with a devastating hit if the federal government makes budget cuts, she said.

Combined with an expected shortage in general state aid, looming budget concerns are causing the district to consider all options, Superintendent James Rydland said.

“(Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources) Ed Howerton is working to figure out timelines for laying off staff. I don’t say that as something that we want to do,” Rydland said.

Officials said the cuts could be announced as soon as the March 18 School Board meeting.

The district could face as much as a $7.1 million shortfall for general state aid for the 2013-14 year. The state has also only paid a fraction of the $5.1 million it owes the district from years past.

School Board members have expressed concern in the past that the state may not let the district know until May about funding for the next school year. These uncertainties are difficult to plan around, Tyler said.

The district is required to give teachers 45 days notice in advance of layoffs, and that is what they are preparing to do, Rydland said.

The district needs to begin making staffing preparations in March and April.

The state and federal governments don’t give enough advance notice for the district to adequately adjust staffing for reduced funding for programs, Rydland said.

Looming federal cuts are a threat if the government cannot balance its budget. Board member Angie Smith said she thought Congress may be able to settle their budget at the final hour, but the timing still puts local school districts through some angst.

The administration will also be focusing on enrollment numbers as they determine a plan for layoffs. Howerton said he would keep the board up to date on current enrollment numbers being used to make the decision on layoffs.

Board member Amie Thompson said she was not excited about having to prepare for this fiscal reality.

“It’s a rotten thing to do to teachers, and it’s a rotten thing to do to kids,” Thompson said.

Other districts

Other Fox Valley School Districts surveyed Wednesday said they are not considering losing any teaching positions.

Oswego School Superintendent Matthew Wendt said his district is in a unique position from most other schools in the state because it continues to face increasing enrollments, even through the recent economic downturn.

Wendt noted that Oswego is the ninth largest district in the state and includes many diverse municipalities — in addition to Oswego, it takes in parts of Aurora, Montgomery, Yorkville, Plainfield and Joliet — so while one area may not be growing, another area could be seeing increases.

Batavia school officials also said they are not predicting any layoffs.

Greg Romanek, Batavia assistant superintendent for human resources, said that with “99 percent probability” he can say “there will not be a reduction” in staff.

“We do not anticipate it at this moment,” he said, adding that this high level of probability does not include those hired as temporary teachers for the year.

Staff writer Denise Crosby contributed to this story.

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