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Furloughs raise ugly heads for next year

BoE acts to avoid expected budget woes

POSTED: January 18, 2013 11:55 a.m.
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After a full, 180-day calendar for students this school year, controversial furlough days will return in the fall.
The Liberty County Board of Education on Tuesday approved a 2013-14 calendar that will shave teachers’ pay from 190 days of work to 184. Students will have 174 days of instruction rather than 180.
Board newcomer Carolyn Smith Carter asked whether teachers had been consulted on the calendar.
District Director of Title Programs Carol Spurlin, who presented the recommendation, said, “No ma’am. Several years ago we decided it was better if we didn’t do that because of the testing windows that are sent down by the state.”
Elementary, middle and high-school tests conflict, she said.
Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Jason Rogers said expected budget concerns precipitated the furloughs. In 2009-10 and 2010-11, the district had six furlough days, and in 2011-12, there were three. This year, there are none.
“If you were asked the question today: Can we get by with no furloughs next year and pay all the bills? The answer is unequivocally, yes,” Rogers said. “The problem is we can’t just think about next year. We’ve got to think about the year after that …”
Rogers said the district wants to prevent hitting a year when it exhausts its fund balance, especially because it is projected to lose at least $7.4 million in state QBE funding that is owed to the district based on its population.
“I feel that it will probably be larger than that just because everything that’s coming out of the governor’s office of planning and budget shows that, with the governor asking departments to take a 4 or 5 percent cut, they’re still coming up about $300 million short,” Rogers added.
Federal funding also is projected to be cut between $300,000 and $400,000 this year due to lack of funds available and lack of students who qualify.
Rogers said the six furlough days will save $2.6 million to $2.7 million in salaries and benefits alone, with added savings from less quantifiable areas such as utilities and transportation.
Should allocations from the state and federal governments improve, the board could reduce furloughs the following year.
Board member Marcia Anderson asked that the district maintain consistency for staff, who in recent years have had to contend variable pay as furlough days were changed.
Teachers likely will lose a half-day of pay per month, Rogers said, to prevent tighter crunches during the months with furloughs.
On request from high-school administrators, fall furloughs will be on Mondays or Tuesdays, rather than Fridays. Spurlin said attendance at Friday evening sporting events suffered following a day out of school.
The first furlough is the day after Labor Day, Sept. 3, and the second follows Columbus Day, Oct. 15. The third follows Veterans Day, Nov. 12.
Furloughs during the second semester would be Friday, Feb. 14, Monday, March 17, and Friday, May 2.
In addition to calling for furloughs, Spurlin said budget cuts also will halt summer remediation in 2014.
“We know that we’ll lose over $300,000 this year, and I think that we’ll lose closer to $500,000 in federal funds this year, so we’re not going to have as much money, where we won’t have money to set aside for summer school for elementary and middle,” she said.
To work around the situation, the schools will offer CRCT testing in early April so the tests can be scored in time for lower-performing students to be remediated and re-tested before summer break.
End-of-course tests for high school students are scored locally, so results will be available soon after they are taken in early May.
The board also was asked to find other spending cuts, a topic that will come up during a 9 a.m. work session on Jan. 29.
Also Tuesday, the board:
• bought $25,000 in lobby and conference-room furniture from VIP for the Pre-K Center for an office renovation
• elected Carol Guyett as vice chairwoman
• authorized three out-of-state travel requests
• approved creation of the Let’s Get Fit club at Waldo Pafford Elementary School


 

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