Education

Wake schools review more budget cuts, implement hiring freeze

Posted April 14, 2010 4:14 p.m. EDT
Updated April 15, 2010 2:22 p.m. EDT

— The Wake County Public School System reviewed two proposals Wednesday in effort to plan for an additional $20 million in budget cuts for the 2010-2011 school year.

Chief Business Officer David Neter told Board of Education members last week that the state Department of Public Instruction, at the request of the governor, is expected to reduce state funding for all school systems by 3 percent for the next school year.

The state might have misjudged its revenue projections, he said, and schools could eventually be asked to cut their budgets by 5 percent.

Board members on Wednesday reviewed proposals showing the impact both of levels of reduction would have on the system.

In the 3 percent scenario, the system would see nearly $16 million in school-based cuts, nearly $2 million in central services reductions and $2 million in centrally budgeted money spent in schools.

The 5 percent reduction would cause $34 million in cuts, including $27 million in school-based cuts.

The school-based cuts would include a reduction of extra-duty pay and an increase in the students-to-teacher ratio. In addition the money allotted to the system per student would be used to fill in budget gaps.

The school system is also expecting a $5 million shortfall in revenue for the current year.

Hiring freeze in effect

In anticipation of receiving less money from the state, the school system has implemented a hiring freeze, according to a memo distributed this week to principals.

The freeze affects all central services and school-based positions, except special education and ESL teachers, according to the letter sent by Stephen Gainey, assistant superintendent for human resources.

The freeze, which went into effect on Monday, will also affect new hires and re-hires, who will not be considered for employment during the 2010-2011 school year until all contractual obligations have been met.

There are about 800 employees with contracts ending June 30, officials said. In normal budget years, these people would be considered automatic re-hires.

The memo states that after the freeze is lifted, re-hires in certified, non-administrator positions will be employed on a probationary contract for the remainder of the school year.

The school board and district administrators are also considering laying off about 70 staff in central services and eliminating 30 to 35 vacant positions to save about $6.64 million. Those cuts would affect instructional services, communications, chief of staff, auxiliary services and administrative services.

School system staff members are expected to give details about the possible layoffs to board members at the next school board meeting on April 20.

Bell schedule changes

In addition to cuts, the school system is looking to raise the prices of school meals and is working on a plan to amend the bell schedules for next year to help close the gap.

The board is looking at ways to save money on purchasing buses and hiring drivers to accommodate the anticipated 2,000 additional bus riders next year.

The school system currently runs buses at different times to allow buses to run up to three routes in both the mornings and afternoons, cutting down on the number of buses and drivers needed.

A plan proposed last month would have saved $750,000 by having elementary students start the school day 25 minutes later.

Concerns that the change would affect student performance and force changes to after-school activities prompted board members to reject the plan and direct school staff to find other alternatives.

The board reviewed three potential bell schedule scenarios on Wednesday. One would leave the schedule the same as the 2008-2009 school year, another would add 15 minutes, causing school to start and end later and a final schedule would create a hybrid of the old and new schedule by adding 15 minutes only to the first tier of elementary, middle and high schools.

To keep the current schedule, the board said it could save money by freezing the teacher pay scale and eliminating vacant positions in central services.

In an effort to cut even more money, board members also discussed reducing the school week from five to four days and selling the naming rights to high school athletic fields.