Officials to get pay cuts

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By Don Pace

Top West Las Vegas will see cuts in their pay; rank-and-file employees will not.

West Las Vegas School’s Business Manager Doug Hendrickson said at a recent school board meeting that the district would be working with less money next year. In light of what officials called a significant shortfall, the superintendent, associate superintendent and business manager agreed to pay cuts.  

Hendrickson said that even with stimulus funding, the district is projecting revenue next fiscal year of $14 million, which is down 8 percent from this year.

Hendrickson said the district received $600,000 last year in supplemental funding from the state, but did not spend it all. He said West got a quarter of a million dollars in emergency supplemental funding this year, but next year the district will not receive any emergency funding.

“Also we have an outstanding loan to food services, who are having problems with their budget to the tune of $100,000, but we are hoping that once we finalize the food service budget. We might have about $50,000 that will add to our cash balance. But it is a challenging environment,” Hendrickson said.

Breaking it down further, Hendrickson said compensation and benefits account for 85 percent of the district’s expenses. He said in putting the 2009-10 budget together, the district started our with a very large and significant shortfall of $1.5 million.

“Over the past couple of weeks, we have worked to do a number of things, and you will see in your notes that we were really guided by two messages from the board. One, preserving jobs by avoiding a reduction in force, and the second, getting our finances back by not seeking emergency supplemental funding. So we had to come up with some creative ways of addressing that shortfall,” Hendrickson said.

Recently, Superintendent Jim Abreu told the Optic that the district recently decided against renewing the contracts of a number of non-tenured employees, but the district has not triggered the formal process known as a reduction in force.

“The last thing I want to do is affect someone’s job,” the superintendent said. But he said in consultation with his staff, he had sent letters to 11 teachers who would not be rehired.

“I also met with each employee face to face, except one who I will meet with this week. I told them what I was trying to do, and expressed my concern in having to let them go. I said I would be glad to be a reference, and if a job opened up and our budget was such, I would consider bringing them back,” Abreu said.

Board member David G. Romero said he had spoken with several teachers who told him the principals were not consulted about who would be let go.

Abreu said that, in fact, principals were involved and for the most part recommended the names of those teachers not rehired.

“This is the hardest part of my job,” he said. “Trying to decide whether to keep somebody or not, people who have a family, a house payment and other bills. It’s very, very difficult, and this is not my favorite time of year.”

Abreu said with the economy in dire straits, everyone is worried about their jobs and there is more anxiety.

“But this is something we have to do every year. All school districts have to do this, but we are sending out 11 letters, opposed to other districts with a much longer list and millions of dollars in debt. Quite frankly, I’m amazed that we’ve come to this point, and we’re not making tremendous cuts and letting all kinds of people go,” Abreu said.

This recent reduction is part of a trend that started in 2008. Because of budgetary restraints, 30 positions disappeared last year, either through attrition or non-renewal of contracts, Abreu said. The district also had to close the Family Partnership’s elementary section, which prompted a demonstration on Mills Avenue and Seventh Street. 

Romero said he has also heard concerns about salary cuts.

Hendrickson told Romero, “There are no salary decreases, nor are there increases. The only people who took a reduction in salary of anywhere between 4 to 5 percent are the superintendent, associate superintendent, business manager, principals, assistant principals and directors.”

Abreu, Hendrickson and Associate Superintendent Mary Jo Archibeque’s salary will be cut by 5 percent, while the other staff will take a 4 percent pay cut.