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Watertown schools to finish layoff meetings today

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Nearly $500,000 in budgeted personnel and programs are on the chopping block in the Watertown City School District.

Officials will inform staff members about layoffs and program cuts through today.

“We’ve made some decisions,” Superintendent Terry N. Fralick said Monday. “Until we tell the folks today and tomorrow what’s happening, I don’t want to share anything.”

Mr. Fralick began meeting Monday with those whose jobs or programs will be cut. He said the number of retirement announcements is higher than the district initially predicted, but he did not comment on how many positions or programs would be cut from next year’s budget.

The district is trimming about $476,000 more in expenses, including $450,000 in personnel, than it originally planned to reduce the blow of a possible depleted fund balance for the 2014-15 school year. Mr. Fralick announced the cuts to staffing, programs and equipment at the Board of Education meeting April 10, when members approved a $66.2 million budget.

According to a fund balance worksheet provided at a Board of Education meeting in late March, the district expected to have $3,308,932 in the undesignated fund balance for the 2013-14 school year. Although the unreserved fund balance is expected to increase to $10.3 million by the beginning of July 2014, the district expected to spend $15 million to keep the tax levy low. That would leave the district $4.7 million in debt.

At that meeting, Mr. Fralick said the district might have to cut $1 million in staff and programs to close the budget gap.

The district had to eliminate 55 positions a few years ago. According to a recent budget presentation, the district has 45 fewer employees than it did in March 2009.

Dianne H. Loonan, president of the teachers union, the Watertown Education Association, did not return a phone message left at her home Monday.

“I guess I can tell you that anytime there is a cut on the personnel, the ultimate effect is on the students,” Mrs. Loonan said in an interview last week.

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