The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

March 21, 2013

Jefferson Area School District employees may face layoffs

JEFFERSON — Educators and staff of the Jefferson Area School District could be facing layoffs as board members unanimously approved the intent for a reduction in force for the 2013-2014 school year, at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The district has been facing financial hardship for some time; however, Superintendent Doug Hladek said, at this point, the measure is strictly a formality.

“We are still trying to look at where our five year forecast is landing,” he said.

Hladek said if it becomes necessary, a reduction in force will take place in April, as the district has to notify employees in May. There are several factors the district will also be looking at before cuts are made. Retirements and severance pay will be factored into the budget among other things, he said.

“We have another month to look at the governor’s budget as well,” Hladek said. “Ten to 20 years ago you could count on the state funding increasing every year. Now it’s not like that. It puts more of a burden on the taxpayer.”

Last year, the district saw $750,000 in cuts. The district is looking to reduce the budget by an additional $1 million this school year. Last August, the district put up a new 11.9-mill operating levy, which failed. The levy would have averted the $1.5 million in budget cuts.

Voters will see a 4.5-mill renewal levy on the May ballot.

“Right now I can’t say what cuts, if any, are coming,” Hladek said.

There were also questions raised, Tuesday, regarding the renewal of Larry Meloro’s contract. Meloro retired as principal of Rock Creek Elementary two years ago and then was rehired by the board for the same position. Board member Larry Divine said he was against it from the beginning and now is the perfect time to let Meloro retire.

“I wasn’t in favor of hiring him back,” he said. “When you retire, you retire.”

Divine said the district has made cuts everywhere but administration and it really isn’t fair.

“Now is the time to eliminate an administrator. It’s nothing against Larry,” he said. “I would feel that way if it were anyone else.”

Divine said he voted against the first one-year contract for Meloro after his retirement and he voted against the second one-year contract as well.

Hladek said the administrators’ contracts need to be renewed or not renewed by the end of March by law.

“That does not preclude reduction in force for financial reasons,” he said.

Board President Patricia Inman said basically if the board were to disagree with Divine and vote to renew Meloro’s contract, it did not necessarily mean the subject was closed. Meloro’s position could still be eliminated after a reduction in force.

When put to a vote, the motion to renew Meloro’s contract did not pass after receiving two “no” votes and two “yes” votes. The motion needed a majority vote to pass. Board member Ron Watson was absent from Tuesday’s meeting and would have been the deciding vote.

Hladek said he is not sure what happens now that the contract was not approved by the end of the month, but will be looking into it.

The board will meet in regular session April 16 at 6 p.m. at the high school. There will also be a community engagement meeting held Tuesday, April 9 at 7 p.m. at the high school.

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