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Gainesville school system may cut pay, dental insurance to hire more teachers
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The Gainesville school system is considering hiring more teachers and making cuts to its employee dental program as board members try to pin down a tentative budget by Monday.

Janet Allison, chief financial officer for Gainesville schools, said in addition, system leaders are considering how much it will cost to replace eight buses destroyed in a fire last month. A systemwide employee pay cut also is on the table, she said.

"We’ve been talking to staff about it — it may come to that — but it would be the last thing," Allison said of the potential pay cuts. "... We haven’t talked to them (board members) about the specifics yet."

The school system is considering not paying the $290,000 employer share of its employee dental health program, Allison said. The money saved could be put toward the salaries of roughly 14 teachers the system needs to hire before school starts in August.

"We would still keep the plan and offer it if employees wanted to pay it themselves," Allison said.

Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said many teachers, mostly special education teachers, are needed in the middle and high school. She said a high school physics teacher also is needed.

The superintendent said the system’s middle and high schools are slated for slight enrollment growth for the 2009-10 school year.

"We are scrambling to employ the people we need for schools," Dyer said. "... We’re not staffing for growth because we’re not sure everybody is coming back yet."

Dyer said Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, Gainesville Middle and Gainesville High are the schools where keeping small class sizes is most challenging.

She said the school board did not renew 20 teachers’ contracts for the upcoming school year this spring as a fiscal precaution.

"It gave us more time to get more information on allotments from the state and to give us more information on our tax revenue next year and stimulus funding to see how we could apply it to personnel," Dyer said.

And the school system’s insurance company is offering $229,119 total for the eight buses destroyed and one bus partially damaged in a bus yard fire on May 22. Allison said the school system’s books indicate the nine vehicles were worth $226,558.

Gainesville schools transportation director Jerry Castleberry said there were six 72-passenger buses and two 90-passenger buses destroyed in the blaze.

Dyer said the system should be able to replace most of the buses before school starts at a relatively low cost to the school system.

"We will probably have some leased, some new, some used — whatever we can afford," she said.

Because of the fire has not been ruled arson, the insurance company told the school system it will not have to pay a $10,000 deductible on the incident, Dyer said.

Allison said the system already had $100,000 set aside before the fire for a new school bus this year.

To help the Gainesville system get the 2009-10 school year up and running, Allison estimates the system will take out a $5 million tax anticipation note by the end of the month.

"It’s basically a cash flow thing," she said. "It’s a tax anticipatory note until you start getting in your tax collections for the new year."

The system took out a similar note for $7.5 million last summer.

Gainesville schools will make about $40,000 off a space it’s renting this year to Alpine Regional Educational Service Agency in the old Gainesville Middle School building on Woods Mill Road. Dyer said the program is a special academic setting for about 100 students with disabilities.

Gainesville school board member Sammy Smith recommended the board adopt a new name for the old Gainesville Middle School. He submitted the name "Wood’s Mill Academy" for the building.

The new Gainesville Middle School off Jesse Jewell Parkway will open this August.

The Gainesville school board will consider adopting a tentative budget for fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1, at 12:15 p.m. June 8 at the Gainesville schools central office, located at 508 Oak St.

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