The West York school board reduced the district's staff by 29 at its meeting Tuesday, but those cuts are only a part of the efforts the district is making to reduce its $1.5 million deficit for the next school year.

The board also approved cutting five athletic teams. On top of the previously reported ninth-grade football team cut, the middle-school cheerleading programs for football, basketball and wrestling will be eliminated. Co-ed middle school cross country will also be cut at the end of the year.

On top of that, the district is planning to combine positions for several co-curricular positions, said Superintendent Emilie Lonardi.

For athletic teams that have three or more coaches, the district is asking that one paid position be eliminated. That will affect 10 athletic teams at the high school.

Other cuts: For some other non-athletic activities that have two paid positions, such as the auditorium director or the freshman class adviser, one will be cut.

"This sort of spreads the pain across all activities," Lonardi said.

Lonardi said in each of these cases, the assistant coaches or advisers can choose to volunteer or split one paycheck for the workload. Or one designated person can choose to do the work and not split the stipend.

In most cases the staff members earn between $1,000 and $2,000 per year for overseeing an activity. So far, Lonardi said coaches and advisers have been willing to split the payments.

"I have not had anybody be negative about that," Lonardi said.

But Lonardi said because the activities are included in staff contracts, the teachers association will need to approve combining the duties for one paycheck. Otherwise, the district most likely will choose not to fill those positions, without combining them.

By consolidating the co-curricular activities, Lonardi said, the district will save about $77,500. Because that's about the salary of one teacher, Lonardi said the board is committed to combining or eliminating the positions.

"We're going to save that money for sure," Lonardi said. "Otherwise we'd have to furlough someone else."

Building during cuts: Lonardi also responded to statements several people had made at the meeting Tuesday regarding the district's decision to move forward with a building project while also cutting staff.

Lonardi said West York can take out bonds every 20 years that can only go toward construction or renovation costs. West York could have renewed the bond a year before, but hoped to wait for better financial times, Lonardi said.

But the bond market dropped steadily, and the board decided to secure the bond for $54.8 million before the district waited too long and received less money to work with, she said.

Lonardi said the debt service the district will have to pay over the next 20 years will not increase property taxes. Instead, she said the goal is that refinancing throughout the years and money saved as other debts are paid off will balance out the debt payments.

Lonardi said many of the improvements covered by the bond will replace equipment, such as boilers at the elementary schools, that are at the end of their expected lifespan. If the board didn't invest in the upgrades now, those would still need to be replaced. Instead of being funded with the loan, those replacements would have to come out of the general fund, which is already strained, she said.

Long-term needs: As for building a new gym at the high school, a move several people criticized Tuesday, Lonardi said the gym floor needs to be replaced. When that is done, the state will require other improvements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning the loss of seating. By building a new gym, those requirements will be met while also addressing overcrowding for practices and gym classes. Lonardi said the overcrowding of fitness areas during the school day is a "safety issue" that needs to be addressed.

And Lonardi said even with the furloughs in place, adding classrooms to the high school is necessary. Teachers switch classrooms frequently throughout the day because there aren't enough for each one, Lonardi said. And while there will still be some sharing after the renovation, it will lessen the crunch on classroom availability.

"If you really put on your 'look down the road' lens, the construction the board is doing is very wise," Lonardi said.

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