The Covington News - - Front page -

with fur­ther re­duc­tions in the sys­tem’s state earn­ings a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity.”

It was rec­om­mended — and the board ap­proved — sev­eral ad­di­tional re­duc­tions in or­der to at­tempt to make up for the lost funds. Beginning De­cem­ber, em­ploy­ees will be charged $21 per month for sin­gle den­tal/ op­ti­cal/ hear­ing cov­er­age — which is cur­rently of­fered at no cost, re­duc­ing an ad­di­tional day in the work cal­en­dar for cer­ti­fied and classified ad­min­is­tra­tors and staff at pay grade 12a and above. The com­pen­sa­tion for board of ed­u­ca­tion mem­bers will also be re­duced in the same pro­por­tion as ad­min­is­tra­tors.

Al­though it is not rec­om­mended as an elim­i­na­tion, the district’s con­tri­bu­tion to in­di­vid­ual em­ployee health in­sur­ance pre­mium will be frozen at the cur­rent rate of $81.10 and $66.10 per month, though it is an­tic­i­pated that an in­crease in the em­ployee’s por­tion of state health in­sur­ance beginning with the De­cem­ber de­duc­tion for the Jan­uary 2010 cov­er­age, ac­cord­ing to the rec­om­men­da­tion by the su­per­in­ten­dent.

The board will also be elim­i­nat­ing sum­mer school and the 20-day in­struc­tional ex­ten­sion pro­gram, re­duc­ing fur­ther the en­cum­brances for text­books and in­struc­tional ma­te­ri­als, cut­ting the op­er­a­tions bud­gets for main­te­nance, en­ergy, fuel and sup­ply and lim­it­ing tech­nol­ogy pur­chases to re­place­ments for es­sen­tial equip­ment which is no longer work­ing.

The big­gest con­cern seemed to be the de­crease in con­tri­bu­tions by the NCSS to the sup­ple­men­tal re­tire­ment plan beginning in Oc­to­ber. Cur­rently, the NCSS con­trib­utes 5 per­cent but will cut that to 3 per­cent. This would be a cut that would be rou­tinely re­viewed and that would be moved back to the orig­i­nal con­tri­bu­tion of 5 per­cent as soon as fis­cally pos­si­ble.

“Is there any realm of pos­si­bil­ity of re­plen­ish­ing the 2 per­cent re­duc­tion at a later date?” asked board mem­ber Ed­die John­son.

“I can’t prom­ise any fu­ture action,” said What­ley. “We will just have to look at that down the road.”

“I know we are in some try­ing times and very dif­fi­cult times but I have some se­ri­ous con­cerns that we are go­ing to im­pact our abil­ity to re­cruit and re­tain some of our best teach­ers by tak­ing away from their long-term re­tire­ment fund. I think we should not al­low our teach­ers to bear the bur­den of th­ese hard times,” said John­son.

“You know, Ed­die, all of us feel that way,” replied board mem­ber Cathy Dobbs. “And as we look to the fu­ture, we are hop­ing out eco­nomic sta­bil­ity re­turns… There are some sys­tems in this state that don’t have an end­ing fund bal­ance and are op­er­at­ing at a deficit. Ev­ery county in this state is do­ing the same thing, hav­ing to cut in places they don’t want to cut.”

Ac­cord­ing to What­ley the only other op­tion the board could find that would al­low them to con­tinue con­tribut­ing the full 5 per­cent to the sup­ple­men­tal re­tire­ment would be to cut take-home pay — some­thing all board mem­bers were em­phat­i­cally op­posed to.

“We chose not to al­ter the take-home pay,” ex­plained What­ley. “Be­cause it was some­thing that peo­ple needed now and they had bills to pay, ver­sus a sup­ple­men­tal re­tire­ment that is over and above the teacher re­tire­ment sys­tem.”

John­son said that he was still op­posed to the cuts to the sup­ple­men­tal re­tire­ment and re­quested a com­mit­ment by the board to re­place all lost funds as soon as it was fi­nan­cially pos­si­ble to do so.

“Things are go­ing to turn around and it shouldn’t be an is­sue,” he said.

“Let me ask you some­thing,” said board mem­ber Johnny Smith. “I would love to re­place it [sup­ple­men­tal re­tire­ment cuts], but we are not go­ing to come out of this for seven, eight, 10 years. How are you go­ing to put a num­ber on that?”

“I’m not go­ing to go and de­bate that,” said John­son. “It’s sim­ple math — 101 math. That’s it.”

“Sim­ple math?” ques­tioned Smith.

“If we take out $1.5 mil­lion, we re­place it at a given time later. That’s it,” re­it­er­ated John­son.

The board voted 4-1 in fa­vor of ac­cept­ing the su­per­in­ten­dent’s rec­om­men­da­tions for the ad­di­tional cuts with John­son vot­ing against it.

Ac­cord­ing to What­ley, the goal was to not have to make re­duc­tions in take­home pay or to re­quire fur­lough days other than the three al­ready sched­uled. He did cau­tion that the pos­si­bil­ity of fur­ther such re­duc­tions may be “in the realm of pos­si­bil- ity.”

The es­ti­mated sav­ings by mak­ing th­ese re­duc­tions is $3,274,370. The re­main­ing loss of rev­enue will be taken from the end­ing fund bal­ance of the bud­get but still at a loss of more than $3 mil­lion.

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