If the tax-limitation measures pass and the Salt Lake School District laid off all district and local school administrators, the school district still would have to whack at least $10 million out of its $85 million budget, Superintendent John W. Bennion told the Salt Lake Board of Education Tuesday night.
"If all of the administrators disappear, it would make it impossible for the school district and schools to operate, and it (the savings) would be only a fraction of the necessary cuts," the superintendent said.
In the district's first formal presentation about the possible effects of the proposed tax initiatives, Bennion reported that eliminating administrators would only save $4.5 million out of a loss projected at $14 million to $16 million.
Bennion said the information contradicts what he called the "popular myth" that the possible tax cuts would only trim away unnecessary fat in administration.
A more plausible plan would see a 33 percent reduction in administrators and staff and a 13 percent in other district personnel, including teachers, aides and secretaries. Bennion said 303 employees would be cut.
The initiatives' passage would also cause massive reduction in educational programs and services, the superintendent said.
Bennion said the Salt Lake School District would be hit harder proportionately by the tax initiatives than any other school district in the state.
District business administrator Gary Harmer said that is because the Salt Lake School District receives less state aid than smaller districts and relies more heavily on property taxes. Also, he added, the district has to compete against more government entities for tax dollars than rural districts.
Stressing that no hit list has been drawn up, Bennion nevertheless did present a possible plan, in an 18-page paper, to describe the extent of the initiatives' impact. He said any real plan would take the board months to work out.
To reach the goal of cutting $14 million, the possible plan would eliminate kindergarten, gifted programs, adult education, community schools, school discretionary funds and field trips, the district fund-raising foundation, school volunteer administrators, transportation of students who live less than three miles from school, district media center, career ladder program, one assistant superintendent and director of elementary education, curriculum development and supervision staff and funds for new facilities.
The plan would also increase the average class size, move elementary schools to a four-track year-round schedule, reduce services for the handicapped 10 percent, reduce equipment allotment to schools, reduce librarian services in the schools, reduce the district testing program and reduce vocational education because of the elimination of state subsidies.
All of these cuts total $14.9 million. They included taking $13.2 million out of maintenance and operation funds, $460,670 out of capital projects, and $1.15 million out of internal services.
In the hypothetical plan, for example, $2.1 million could be saved and 60.5 full-time-equivalent personnel could be eliminated if kindergarten were abandoned. Bennion said eliminating kindergarten in its entirety would free up space to close three elementary schools and lay off corresponding staff, including 48.5 teaching positions.
On class sizes, Bennion estimated $1.8 million could be saved by increasing class sizes by 2.6 students or moving to year-round schools.
He said different variables could be worked out. It would be possible to keep kindergarten and also increase class size but the overall effect would be an average class size increase of 5.1 students per teacher. Bennion said the average class size in the fifth grade then would be 35.1 students per class.
"The stakes here are very high," the superintendent said.
Referring to the board's hassles over the high school boundary issues, Vice President Stephen Boyden said, "If they (the initiatives) go through, by comparison, the trauma that we've gone through in the last year will be bland."