JORDAN | The Jordan-Elbridge Central School District Board of Education voted to eliminate three positions Wednesday, including the one held by suspended assistant superintendent for business and finance Bill Hamilton.
Board member Paul Fried voted no on the resolution and board member Michael Jorolemon was absent.
The three positions eliminated were: assistant superintendent for business and finance; director of special education (vacant since 2011); and director of operations (vacant since 2011).
Superintendent James Froio clarified a press release the district sent out Monday that stated five positions would be considered for cuts. The other two in the press release, interim business manager and account clerk/special program assistant position, will be eliminated, but do not require board action.
The interim business manager's contract will expire in June and will not be renewed and the clerk/assistant position is a civil service position and will be left unfilled.
"One of the things that makes this work is we have very talented middle managers," Froio said.
Froio said the total annual savings of these cuts, plus a sixth position that was cut in 2011, the special projects administrator, will be $418,828.
The board also approved a raise for treasurer James Mahaney, from $58,000 to $78,000.
These changes were part of an administrative reorganization, Froio said. He said it was for the purposes of streamlining the district and saving money that can now be re-directed to pre-kindergarten and school safety.
"This is done from the top down and taking a real reflective look at our operations," he said. "We can't be everything to everybody unless we're efficient at the top."
Froio said for the district's enrollment of 1,400, there are 282 full-time employees, which he said is an appropriate number of staff.
"As long as that number's 1,400, we should never go much higher than that," he said.
Fried took issue with this reorganization for two reasons. He was concerned that with so few people working in the business office, important budget planning may not get done effectively.
He was also concerned about a possible lawsuit, as Hamilton's lawyer said Monday that he would be bringing legal action against the district if the position was eliminated to "get rid of" Hamilton, who has been suspended for 2.5 years, awaiting a state Education Department hearing.
"What are the probabilities of another protracted lawsuit that this community doesn't want?" he asked his fellow board members. "Let's say it was a million dollar lawsuit."
Board president Brian Richardson said the district has insurance to protect it from such a lawsuit, and Froio said the district must move forward with the cost-saving plan regardless of such threats.
"To be held hostage by the threat of something is no way to operate," he said. "If somebody elects to sue us, somebody elects to sue us. We can't be paralyzed by the threat of a lawsuit."
But Fried was not convinced and voted no on the resolution.
"It's a slippery road and it's another damn lawsuit," he said.
Suspended high school principal David Zehner spoke during the public comment section and urged the board not to move forward with eliminating Hamilton's position.
"This is not something you want to go into lightly, and when it's so obviously done for political reasons," he said.