- Special Sections
- Public Notices
The Shelby County School Board on Thursday approved almost $2 million in cuts for its 2013-14 budget that could result in the loss of 26 positions across the school district.
Acting on recommendations from the its budget committee, the board approved about $2.2 million in cost reductions, but other adjustments left total savings in the general fund at almost $1.9 million.
Board member Eddie Mathis made the motion to accept all of the committee’s recommendations, including the idea of a $200,000 mini-contingency that would be invoked if any of the cuts prove too severe. Allen Phillips seconded, and the recommendation was passed unanimously without further discussion.
Based on continued cuts in state funding and federal grants through the past several years, Superintendent James Neihof had commissioned this budget committee with the goal of going through the district’s budget line-by-line to see what benefits students were receiving with every expenditure.
The committee, led by Neihof, Director of Finance Greg Murphy and board member Brenda Jackson, also included representatives from the district and schools.
After last month’s first look at the 2013-14 budget, the committee was charged with finding a minimum of $610,000 to cover the expected General Fund shortfall and the funding required to cover two additional professional development days, which the board had approved last year.
Armed with these recommended changes, the district now will begin to study the expected student growth and teacher placement for 2013-14 school year and present a tentative budget to the board by May 30. The working budget will not be approved until September, after the district has an average daily attendance to report to the state.
“What we’ve done is probably unprecedented in this district, at least going back to the mid-nineties,” Neihof said of the committee’s intricate review. “Our concern is that we’ve overlooked something [that could be cut] or that we’ve been too aggressive in some areas.”
The amount saved will more than cover the projected shortfall and provide the necessary funds for the two additional professional development days. It also may be sufficient for the board, at Neihof’s request, to consider a pay raise for employees next year and help the district weather more potential economic hardships in the future.
More than half of the cuts, almost $1.3 million, came from three groups that directly affect those in the classrooms, including increases in student-teacher ratio and loss of teaching and aid positions.
A total of 26 positions throughout various areas would be cut, but Neihof said he expects many of those individuals to be retained in other areas.
Once the student population growth is calculated, the district will begin the teacher allocation process, and with significant student growth expected, more teachers will be needed. The district also would have the option of not filling positions that are left vacant from retirement or educators’ leaving the district for other jobs.
“I expect that number to be much closer to even when the staffing allocations is finished,” he said.
However, while the total number of positions could end up being close to even, there are jobs that will not be filled. Among the proposed cuts are:
Some of those positions will be created by these adjustments in student-teacher ratios:
“I know these don’t sound like significant changes, but with some of the other changes included, it’s bigger than you think,” said Greg Murphy, district director of finance. “With some of the other positions, like the Read 180 teachers, being moved into the allocations, if principals want a Read 180 teacher, they’ll have to find room in their budgets for them.”
Special ed changes
Special education was most affected, and that was mitigated by the district’s moving teachers to larger caseloads. The state sets caseload maximums for special education teachers, which varies based on the disabilities of the students they serve, and based on those state regulations the district determined that it was overstaffed.
“We’ve been staffing in a way that fewer students were in a teacher’s caseload than can be expected based on state regulations,” Murphy said.
And he said that was because the district was leaving a lot of room for growth in special education areas.
“We were surprised at the change [how much variance] if we were to go to state regulations everywhere,” Neihof said. “We had a period of time where, I believe there was some over identification going on. Now, with those numbers reducing and moving on, and with our move closer to state regulations, then we had several positions that could be cut.”
Other large cuts in the proposed budget include:
Along with the decreased funding, the recommendation did call for increases in some areas, which would help cover some of the larger decreases.
The increases requested are:
New board member Karen Sams tried to sum up the board’s feelings on the cuts and the commitment to balancing the budget without funding increases.
“I think this is great,” she said just before the motion to approve. “I think it’s something that needed to be done.”