Mat-Su schools lay off 48

Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, facing a $3 million budget deficit, is laying off 48 employees.

The layoff notices went out Wednesday to support staffers in 14 different jobs ranging from custodians to maintenance supervisors to special education clerks. The action saves the district $600,000 but leaves a shortfall of more than $2.4 million still to make up.

Eighteen of the 48 were offered half-time status in their current positions. The district also gave 19 employees involuntary transfers, meaning they will keep their jobs but must move to another department or school.

No teachers were laid off because they work under yearlong contracts, officials said.

The Mat-Su district has laid off employees in the past but hasn't let this many go for at least 10 years, said Bob Doyle, the district's interim chief school administrator.

''It's very difficult,'' he said. ''There's really no good time to do this, but we waited half the fiscal year, six months. We couldn't wait any longer.''

The layoffs will ripple out to nearly all the 34 schools in the district, which serves 13,600 students. More than 900 people teach in the district. Another 700 provide support services.

District officials pointed to three major causes of the deficit:

--The district lost some state funding after a state audit of October enrollment revealed that the Mat-Su had overestimated the number of students in the district by at least 100 students. The state provides money to school districts based on how many students are enrolled.

--A new Correspondence Study School targeting home-school students lost $500,000.

--The cost of settlements reached with teacher and support staff unions this fall. A new teacher's contract, signed in September, included a $3,000 across-the-board raise for the district's 940 teachers. A contract for support staff approved in November included a 2 percent raise and cheaper health insurance.

District enrollment grew from last year to this year by up to 600 students. But that was not enough to absorb the cost of the settlement the school reached with unions, Doyle said.

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