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BoE ponders eliminating 309 jobs

Proposal to balance 2013-2014 system budget would cut 12% of workforce for a savings of $15.5 million

How do you reduce school system costs by $15.5 million to produce a balanced budget?

You cut 309 jobs out of a total of 2,575 positions, a 12 percent reduction in the work force.

That’s the first official proposal presented to the Fayette County Board of Education in the run-up to adopting a 2013-2014 school year budget later this spring.

Monday night board members heard a proposal that would eliminate 309 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions from across the school system, which carries a total cost savings of approximately $15.5 million.

Reporting on the proposal, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Personnel Management Tom Gray said the 309.69 job reductions include the loss of 246.69 FTEs through elimination and another 63 through the closure of four schools.

The breakdown showed a total systemwide reduction of 143.69 certified positions such as teachers, assistant principals and counselors for a savings of $7.8 million, 145 classified positions such as parapros and secretaries for a savings of 2.5 million and 20.5 jobs in central office and in support positions for a savings of $1.2 million.

The reductions are expected to save approximately $15.5 million next school year.

Gray said the number of actual staff members affected in the FTE reduction has not been determined since the school system employs full-time, half-time, part-time and job share staff.

A further breakdown of the proposal showed a loss of 158.12 FTEs at elementary schools with 64.12 of those positions coming in the form of certified staff and 94 as classified staff.

Interim Superintendent Dan Colwell said the larger number of reductions in the elementary schools is due to the closure of three of those schools, the expected decrease in elementary school enrollment next year and the teacher-student ratio that is currently the smallest in the state.

Middle schools are proposed to lose 68.58 FTEs, including 45.58 certified positions and 23 certified positions. High schools under the proposal would lose 61.99 employees. Of those, 33.99 positions are certified and 28 are classified.

The reductions in central office will include two director level positions, the human resources director, the purchasing agent, a technical position, a social worker, three special education positions, two secretaries and three facilities maintenance positions.

Some of the central office positions have already been eliminated or consolidated into other positions to save additional funds for the current school year that ends in June. As for the reductions in support staff, those include one transportation department administrator and five bus drivers.

Still other proposed reductions include the elimination of fifth-grade band and orchestra, eliminating contracted orchestra instruction and eliminating assistant band directors at each high school, though the band directors at the middle schools will assist at the high school level. Those reductions would save $320,000.

Other program reductions that would save approximately $80,000 include reducing softball and wrestling at middle schools while the hourly non-benefit parking lot attendants will be paid entirely through parking lot fees.

The school board in the past several years has eliminated nearly 300 positions due to the worsening economic conditions that surfaced in Fayette County as the Great Recession took hold.

With the proposed reductions of 309 FTEs, the total school system employment numbers would fall from the current 2,575.79 employees to 2,268.6 employees, a reduction of approximately 12 percent of the school system’s workforce.

It has been during the past several years that student enrollment has also seen dramatic decreases. In all, Fayette has seen enrollment drop by approximately 2,000 students during those years and the school system expects to see another decrease of up to 300 students next year.

The school board will likely decide on the numbers to be cut in the coming weeks. The elimination of those positions is a large portion of the overall cuts that will be necessary to adopt a balanced budget in June and provide enough money to begin building a positive fund balance for the following school year.

The school board on Monday approved a $3,000 retirement incentive for certified employees and has arranged for a job fair for those employees affected by the staff reductions.

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