City schools budget would avoid layoffs

Published 8:42 am Friday, April 2, 2010

FRANKLIN—Grappling with an anticipated $829,484 shortfall for fiscal year 2011, city school officials presented a draft budget that calls for across-the-board cuts but doesn’t require layoffs.

“This does not cut any additional staff,” said Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle. “We have dodged a bullet.”

The preliminary $14.1 budget includes not filling 7.5 vacant positions and increasing some class sizes. A projected worst-case scenario deficit of $1.4 million would’ve required eliminating 21.5 jobs.

“You’re actually talking about losing 7.5 positions instead of 21.5, and the 7.5 that you would be losing are all due to attrition, so you would not have any current employees being affected by a reduction in force,” said assistant superintendent Dr. Rick Clemons.

The preliminary budget reduces funding for remediation and substitute teachers and cuts funding by up to 15 percent for transportation, maintenance, administration, buildings and other areas of operation. The rest of the deficit will be erased by not filling the vacant positions.

The remediation funding will be replaced with federal funding, said Bev Rabil, the division’s associate director of instruction.

“We have tried every cost-cutting strategy to keep from cutting positions,” Belle told the school board Tuesday.

The division expects to receive $14.1 million next year, down from $15.3 million this year, including one-time stimulus money.

Insurance costs are expected to increase by $67,000, or 7 percent, but the district’s employee retirement payments are expected to fall by nearly $400,000, thanks to the General Assembly.

However, Belle said that isn’t without a downside.

“It is a decrease in expenditures for us for the upcoming school year, but at some point it’s going to snowball,” she said.

School officials hope the city will provide $4.8 million in funding next year, the same amount it contributed to the current budget. The state is expected to provide $615,000 less, and federal funding is expected to remain flat.

Some class sizes are expected to increase next year under the plan presented by school leaders.

“Any increase in class size would be a concern for our staff,” Rabil said.

However, the staff should “count themselves lucky;” it’s worse in other districts.

Larger class sizes in elementary grades and cuts to certain programs drew concern from some board members.

Mona Murphy, vice chairwoman of the board, commended Belle and her staff for saving jobs in the draft budget.

“You all have done a fantastic job,” Murphy said. “We’re in a critical time.”

The draft budget provides a total of $29,000 in salaries for the seven-member school board.

Board Chairman Bill Scarboro said the amount could be used for “something that will help” students.

“I want you to think about that,” he told his fellow board members.

Board members can make budget recommendations before the actual proposed budget comes before them on April 22, Belle said.