BELLAIRE - The Bellaire Education Association says it has a plan to help save the financially troubled school district money and avoid layoffs.
"During the current negotiations process, the Bellaire Education Association has taken the financial instability of our district seriously," said BEA President Marion Stolz. "We have been prepared to talk and work with the district to solve this financial crisis. We have submitted a financial proposal that will save the district $5.3 million over the next four years."
According to a news release, Stolz said the plan, along with the 12.9-mill emergency levy, will leave the district in better financial shape. The plan includes incentives to higher-paid veteran teachers to retire who could be replaced by teachers who are not as advanced on the pay scale, said Mike Dossie, member of the BEA negotiations team.
"The Bellaire Education Association negotiations team has willingly met with the board's team," Stolz said. "We believe our plan will work. The BEA Early Exit Plan could potentially save approximately $214,000 and $286,000 in salaries and benefits per teacher that chooses this plan over the next four years."
On Dec. 31, 2009, the school district was declared in "Fiscal Emergency" by the state auditor's office for failing to come up with a plan to eliminate a $3 million projected deficit for the end of the school year. In a performance audit, the state auditor has recommended the school district eliminate at least 24 teachers as a way to reduce the projected deficit.
Bellaire Schools Superintendent Tony Scott said previously reductions, along with increased revenue, are needed to get the school district out of debt. The board of education approved a 12.9-mill emergency levy for the May Primary Election ballot. A reduction in force is anticipated to be a topic of discussion during April's regular monthly board meeting.
Dossie said the union's plan will benefit the students by continuing a high quality of education and continued programs without reducing staff. He also said for the staff of the district, the students "always come first."
"The ultimate goal during negotiations has been a fair and equitable contract that will maintain the high quality programs and staff for Bellaire Schools," Dossie said. "The future of the Bellaire School District is at stake and the BEA will do all in its power to ensure maintenance of the current quality. The BEA has consistently and constantly put the students' welfare and interest ahead of any personal gains."