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Eagle Point School Board decides to cut the equivalent of 18 full-time staff for '12

The Eagle Point School Board approved staff cuts Wednesday, eliminating the equivalent of up to 18 full-time positions for next year, joining the precession of Jackson County and Oregon schools introducing painful budget cuts due to rollbacks in state and federal education funding.

The measure, which could include both part-time and full-time employees, saves about $915,000. About half of the eliminated positions will be teachers.

"Class sizes will creep up," said Eagle Point schools Cynda Rickert. "Remember that's across the whole school district (of 4,200 pupils). More than 85 percent of our budget is personnel so there is nowhere else substantial to make that kind of cut."

However, the number of layoffs could be reduced by any retirements or resignations submitted by the end of the school year or by any savings achieved in new employee contracts, which are currently being negotiated, school district officials said.

"We think there might be a solution if we come to the table and can do good work there we can offset some of that," Rickert said. "We are very hopeful."

Staff members will be notified of layoffs by March 16. Rickert said she would not release what programs would be affected by the cuts until individual employees are informed of layoffs.

"Two years ago when we had to do significant RIFs (reductions in force), we made a goal to notify anyone who could be affected by spring break," Rickert said. "We did that because we thought it was more humane. Some districts don't do that until June as people are leaving, and we think it's better to do it earlier so they have time to plan."

Employee contracts have specific guidelines that determine who is laid off first. Seniority and subject credentials both play a role in the determination, said Michael Remick, Eagle Point schools human resources director.

Tina Mondale, Eagle Point school improvement director, said the reductions were made carefully to help preserve core academic programs such as math, reading, writing and science.

Scott Whitman, Eagle Point schools business manager, said the district has to cut a total of $1.5 million next year from its $30 million budget, and the $915,000 cuts in personnel are a part of that overall number. The $1.5 million is on top of a transfer of more than $2 million from the district's fund balance (savings account for emergencies) to next year's operating budget. The district estimates it will have to cut $2 million out of its budget in the 2012-2013 school year.

The district kicked off its budgeting process back in July for the 2011-2012 school year. In anticipation of deep cuts, it help public meetings in Shady Cove, Eagle Point and White City to gain feedback from the community on its priorities for spending.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.