10/22/04 — Schools to cut unfilled jobs to pay teachers

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Schools to cut unfilled jobs to pay teachers

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 22, 2004 2:02 PM

The Wayne County public school system says its decision about where to cut $876,802 from in its budget to pay for teacher supplemental pay raises was made easier because of unfilled job vacancies this year.

The proposed cuts were presented to the school board's finance committee on Thursday. It will be voted on at the next meeting, on Nov. 1.

The Board of Education had agreed to make the cuts as part of a compromise with the county commissioners. The board had requested a 5 percent increase to the teacher supplement, which the commissioners agreed to raise to 6.5 percent. The school board was asked to cut its budget to make up the difference.

Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of schools, sent a memo to all 31 schools last month seeking input on where reductions could be made. Each school was given an amount based on enrollment. The breakdown represented a rate of $20.75 per student.

Nan Barwick, assistant superintendent for finance, said the recommendations were received last week. Many schools targeted personnel areas that had not been filled, while others looked at supplies, materials and remediation.

The latter "were not areas we wanted to make cuts in because that would affect the classroom," Mrs. Barwick said.

She said that in starting the school year with people not in place, the school system looked at the savings from what would have been paid for those positions. That accounted for 33 certified positions that were either filled after school started or remained vacant.

"This does not mean we're not going to fill them," she said. "We're not eliminating any positions."

Substitutes for teachers, guidance counselors and media coordinators have been used in many areas, but money that had been budgeted for those as well as 16 non-certified positions can absorb the bulk of the cuts.

The projected amount for certified personnel not hired is $448,800; for non-certified personnel, which include teacher assistants, bookkeepers, and custodians, is $92,800.

Mrs. Barwick said the rest will come from the school system's expansion budget, which had been proposed in February when the climate seemed more optimistic.

That category accounts for $335,202. Among the items that will not be expanded are principal travel, postage, WorldView travel for teachers, science kits, health textbooks. Areas that will be reduced but not eliminated include band uniforms and a grant writer.

Taylor said the expansion budget had been put on hold pending the outcome of negotiations with the commissioners. It might now work to the school system's advantage.

"It's easier to cut something we haven't bought yet as opposed to something we have in place," he said.

Mrs. Barwick said this has been an unusual year for the school system, with many of the vacancies due to retirements. It was a wise move to include the schools in the decision-making process, she said.

"It gives everybody a viewpoint that they didn't have before," she said. "At least they had a part in the plan.

"And even though we didn't use all the suggestions, I think they had a different understanding."

Board member Thelma Smith is on the finance committee. She said, "I don't see how anybody can grumble, because everybody has to do the same thing."

Board member George Moye is also a member of the finance committee. He supported the idea of seeking input from the schools in lieu of the school board and administrative offices dictating to them.

"It made it a little more powerful," he said. "Some people are upset but they're not upset with us; they're upset with the funding source, the county commissioners."