Education

Wake schools' money-saving measures include layoffs

Posted April 20, 2010 7:19 p.m. EDT
Updated April 21, 2010 12:11 p.m. EDT

— After voting 5-3 for a proposed $1.4 billion budget it will send to county commissioners, the Wake County Board of Education on Tuesday agreed to a plan to save $7 million for the next fiscal year by cutting its work force in its central services division.

Sixty-eight filled positions – including administrative, instructional, auxiliary and communications – will be eliminated to save an estimated $4.1 million; 57 vacant positions will also go away, saving an estimated $2.9 million.

"The positions that we are recommending to cut are key positions, but the budget is difficult right now,” board member Kevin Hill said.

John Tedesco was the only school board member to vote against the reduction in force.

"I thought there were too many cuts in the budget to places like intervention services and direct needs for our kids, and not enough cuts for some of our upper-level leadership positions in our central services,” Tedesco said.

The money-saving measure comes as the board looks at a potential $40 million less in funding for the upcoming school year, because of low revenue and state-mandated budget cuts.

The school system faces a number of challenges in freeing up money and is considering a variety of measures, such as four-day school weeks, naming rights to athletic fields, pay cuts and shifting bell schedules.

David Neter, the district's chief business officer, told the board Tuesday that the proposed budget includes only what state funding cuts are known now, and more could come as the state deals with its budget deficit and the school system finds out what the county will fund.

In another budget-related move, the board approved a plan to change next year's bell schedule back to one in place during the 2008-09 school year.

That means an extra 10 minutes to the school day – 20 minutes less than a previous plan that would have delayed the opening of many elementary schools by up to 30 minutes.

The proposed budget allocates $750,000 in funding to pay for 25 new buses, drivers and related expenses to transport 6,000 additional bus riders next year. The $1.4 billion total includes $1.2 billion in operating costs and $200 million in capital spending.

About $264,000 of that comes from cutting some of those vacant positions in central services. The remaining comes from eliminating pay-bumps for teachers reaching certain longevity milestones.

Neter noted that no current proposal has cuts in coaches' pay or the number of media specialists in the district.

Those are ideas, however, if state funding falls another 3 to 5 percent, which would mean an additional loss of $20 million to $34 million less for Wake schools. That could lead to larger class sizes and fewer school supplies.

"Our governor is the education governor and I know that she has prioritized education, but we need to be very serious about this,” board member Anne McLaurin said about the probability of more funding cuts.