April 28, 2014

Jill Nehman, media specialist for grades six through 12 in the Carroll Community School District, was informed on Friday that her position will be eliminated next year due to budget cuts.

The potential elimination of Nehman's position is the first confirmed staff cut made in the school district's effort to cut nearly $500,000 from its 2014-15 budget.

Nehman, who has been with the district for six years, said a letter handed to her by superintendent Rob Cordes cited the reasons for the recommended termination of her contract as "budgetary restrictions and problems," "maintenance of programs" and "reduction of position" due to "realignment of school organizations."

She intends to request a hearing before the school board to contest the recommendation to eliminate her position, Nehman said. She will be represented by a lawyer hired by the Carroll Education Association.

She was unsure how many, or which, if any, other staff members received similar letters.

Cordes also declined to comment Friday afternoon on how many positions he will recommend the board cut.

Though the school board had planned to have a budget reduction workshop earlier this month, the meeting was cancelled. Cordes said that he will tell the board what reductions he believes "necessary" and the board will either approve or not approve those budget cuts.

He expects the vote to take place during a special meeting prior to the next regular board on May 19.

The necessity of those budget reductions has been a topic at every board meeting this year.

The state of Iowa sets maximum per-pupil spending for all districts - an amount that is $1,600 below the national average. Coupled with a decade of declining enrollment, school districts have less money available each year for classroom instruction, nearly 80 percent of which is spent on salaries - which continue to rise year after year.

The state also changed its requirements this year for districts operating a cash reserve levy - a funding source that has helped fill the gap between general fund revenue and expenditures in past years, but is not available to the Carroll district this year.

In an effort to reduce cuts to staff and programs, the district offered hefty early retirement incentives this year - 60 percent of an educator's salary, with a maximum set at $35,000, for any employee who had spent 15 years in the district. As a result, 13 educators volunteered for early retirement, an effort that would have saved the district roughly $680,000 if none of those positions needed to be refilled, Cordes said previously.