KELLER -- The Keller school board voted unanimously Thursday night to declare a state of financial emergency, paving the way for layoffs.
District officials plan to cut more than 200 jobs as part of a first-round effort to trim $16 million from the 2011-12 budget.
"It is impossible to make the necessary cuts without a reduction in force," said Amanda Bigbee, the school district's general counsel.
A declaration of financial exigency, or emergency, allows the district to terminate contract employees. The resolution also included a statement that officials plan to make program changes that would cut staff members, including changing the student-to-teacher ratio, altering student and staff schedules, reorganizing central administration and consolidating duties of administrators.
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At Monday night's budget workshop, Bigbee told board members about their options on layoffs. Officials plan to triple a resignation incentive for employees in the areas targeted for cuts. Bigbee suggested that they give up to 175 incentives at $2,250 for staff members who agree to leave and not protest the layoff.
The deadline for employees to accept the incentive is March 24.
Bigbee also suggested that officials look at employees on probationary contracts for many of the cuts. Many of those workers are first- or second-year teachers. Probationary-contract employees are not entitled to hearings, which can cost as much as $50,000 each.
The termination of some contracts requires a declaration of financial exigency or program changes. Bigbee said some cuts of contract employees would be necessary but best kept at a minimum.
Deputy Superintendent Mark Youngs said declaring financial exigency will affect the district's bond rating for a few years. Since officials have no current plans to call for a bond election, Youngs said, the effect will be minimal.
Although administrators are unsure how much state funding will be slashed, they said the district may lose an additional $22 million, requiring a second round of cuts.
Superintendent James Veitenheimer said officials are preparing for a possible second round of cuts totaling $16 million, with tentative plans to use $6 million from district savings if the loss is closer to $38 million.
While the first round of cuts included about 30 percent in staffing reductions, the next round would be more than 80 percent personnel, Veitenheimer said.
Board President Cindy Lotton said, "This is not something we are doing lightly or flippantly. There is a person attached to each position, but if the money is not there, it's not there."
In the next month, trustees are expected to discuss asking voters to approve a tax increase that would raise an additional $16 million.
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231