WESTMINSTER : Smaller Enrollment Forces Staff Cuts

Faced with an unexpected enrollment drop and declining state funding, the Westminster School District board covered a $300,000 budget shortfall on Thursday by laying off two special reading program teachers, five part-time clerical workers, a nurse, a psychologist and two vocal music teachers.

Because 215 fewer students than expected enrolled in school this year, the district needed to reduce its number of teachers proportionately to make up for the anticipated loss in revenue, said George Acton, director of purchasing and financial services. The state pays districts according to the actual number of pupils attending school.

"The board was very upset," Acton said. "Whenever you get involved with laying off people, they don't like that. It was not a lighthearted meeting."

The cause of the enrollment decline is unknown, but the loss of about $600,000 in state revenue prompted the board to cut seven other teacher positions in the last few weeks. Those savings accounted for about half of the shortfall, the rest of which was made up through Thursday's cuts, Acton said.

Acton added that the financial picture is stable but will remain bleak. "I don't think were going to get hit any more this year, but I'm very fearful for the next two years because a lot of the money the state is giving us will have to be paid back," he said.

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