On Tuesday, all 27 non-tenured teachers in the Hamilton School District were notified that their contracts may not be renewed for next year because of the uncertainty the district faces regarding the 2011-12 general fund budget.
School board members decided to take this unprecedented action at their April 11 meeting, when they also passed a resolution setting June 14 as a date to put an operations levy before the voters, if necessary.
"We've never done anything like this before," said Hamilton School District superintendent Duby Santee. "When we look at what's coming out of the state Legislature, we need to have some latitude. We are looking at a worst-case scenario, that is in House Bill 2, of a $500,000 deficit in our general fund. That would mean the reduction of 14 full-time-equivalent staff. This is hard on everybody. The timing is just awful."
The teachers were told Tuesday that at the May 9 school board meeting, trustees will decide which of the 27 will not be given contracts for next year. Santee said that in the best-case scenario, all of the contracts would be renewed, but the school board decided to give the teachers a heads-up just in case.
"Near as we can tell, in the best-case scenario we would only have a deficit of about $100,000," he said. "We can deal with that. But if it gets any bigger than that we have a problem. We actually had some teachers that wanted us to let them know where they stood, so that's why we took the action of notifying them today. We can't pretend that this isn't happening. If the Legislature goes into a special session, then we need some time to react."
Santee said that the school district doesn't have any idea what their financial situation will be next year.
"We don't have any solid numbers to work with," he said. "If the Legislature comes up with numbers close to what the governor has proposed, then we will be in decent shape. But there is such a disparity in what the governor wants to do and what the legislative committee wants to do, and they are putting this off until the end of the session. That has kind of forced us to do some things we wouldn't ordinarily do."
Santee said he hadn't heard any reaction from the teachers on Tuesday.
"They are kind of just now getting the news," he said. "I'm guessing on Wednesday I will hear more from them about it. This is absolutely unprecedented, but unfortunately the Legislature has put us in this situation."
Reach reporter David Erickson at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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