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Tue, Oct. 22

Mountain Institute JTED RIFs two positions, approves 5% wage cut

Faced with a budget deficit of $311,328, the governing board of Mountain Institute, Yavapai County's Joint Technical Education District, approved a reduction in force for two positions, and a 5-percent reduction in wages and salaries across the board at a special meeting this past Thursday.

The cuts are a direct result of decreased enrollment of students that occurred this past fall in the seven Yavapai County school districts that make up Mountain Institute JTED, which includes classes on both district campuses and the MI Central campus.

The 5 percent payroll reduction for teachers, staff and administrators will save $41,863. The impact on employee paychecks for the next half year, however, is really 10 percent as the district recoups the 5 percent dating back to the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

MI Superintendent Jeramy Plumb acknowledged that several staff members approached him in late December with additional suggestions on how to resolve the budget deficit. One staff member offered to take an early retirement, and several teachers offered to reduce their hours or go half time for the second semester. It wasn't enough savings needed to balance the budget, however.

Betty Marvin, one of three career counselors, has volunteered to take early retirement, which the board will consider at its Jan. 15 meeting. The board did approve the voluntary reduction-in-force of Michael Nelson, medical professions teacher, and the involuntary RIF of Becky Zimmer, registrar, both effective Jan. 9.

"Michael is one of the medical program teachers, a great guy, a good instructor," Plumb said. "Becky is a great employee. It's really tough."

Zimmer, one of the first JTED employees hired three years ago, moved from her position as receptionist into a new position created this past summer as registrar. The board cannot by law RIF employees based on tenure, and when it eliminated that position based on the needs of the district, Zimmer lost her job.

Plumb said district staff will pick up job duties of six unfilled positions for the next five or six months.

The district will use its $25,000 Classroom Site Fund (Prop 301 money), intended to pay for teacher professional development, to offset the deficit.

Yavapai College Foundation will offer $14,000 in spring semester tuition scholarships for JTED students. Yavapai College (separate from the foundation) is working with JTED staff for an additional $46,451 in budget savings.

Other revenue includes state money used to pay for students' certification testing fees in the amount of $38,350.

The JTED board is requesting all seven districts to reduce their budget for a total JTED savings of $75,000. Each district's portion is based on how many students dropped JTED classes this year.

Humboldt Unified School District has the largest reduction in JTED funding at $41,078 out of its 2014-2015 allocation of about $69,000. By statute, districts must use this money to supplement existing funding for Career Technical Education/JTED programs that take place on the Bradshaw Mountain High School campus, Plumb said.

The 2013-2014 school year ended with an enrollment of 368 students. Based on the 2014-2015 school year registration, Mountain Institute planned for 600 students. About 200 students didn't complete the registration process over the summer, and 105 students withdrew after attending classes, said Howard Moody, MI finance director.

"We totally rely on the districts and the data they give us. Those are their students. We staffed and equipped for the 600, and those students never showed up," Plumb said.

The number of students taking classes at the Central Campus on Centerpoint Drive off Highway 89A - as opposed to students at the individual district high school campuses - increased from 321 this past year to 423. This should generate sudden growth money that the state usually distributes near the end of the school year. Moody said he would ask the board to request from the state an early cash advancement of this money; he will give the final official amount to the board at its Jan. 15 meeting.

Mountain Institute has not been established long enough to have cash reserves, Plumb said. In addition to changing the registration process, he said MI may have to cap enrollment of classes and put students on waiting lists as a first-come first-served process until the district has built up reserves to protect itself if this situation happens again.

He hopes Mountain Institute, like all Arizona districts, soon will be reimbursed with money from the Arizona Department of Education inflationary lawsuit. He will use those funds to pay back the 5 percent pay cut to employees, return the two positions, and reimburse the member district reductions.

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