RSSS cuts 40 positions to balance budget
By Sarah Campbell
EAST SPENCER — Despite a deficit of more than $2.5 million, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education voted 6-1 Monday to give employees a one time 1 percent pay hike.
That’s on top of 1.2 percent increase mandated by state legislators.
“We need to be sure that we can keep teachers, and with the employment picture being what it is, they are going to the highest dollar,” board member Kay Wright Norman said. “They’ve taken big hits for the past four years, so if we can do anything that says we appreciate what you’re doing, I think that would make a big difference.”
Board member Bryce Beard agrees employees deserve the raise.
“I think it’s time to do the 1 percent in appreciation of what teachers have done,” he said. “I think it’s important.”
The measure will cost the district nearly $1.3 million, which will come from the $5.5 million fund balance along with almost $1.1 million in funds to offset the shortfall.
The board approved a number of cuts to whittle the deficit down to $1.1 million including:
• 14 curriculum coaching positions at $475,000;
• 20 reading assistant positions at $570,000;
• Two high school clerical positions at $60,000;
• Four central office support positions known as lead teachers at middle and high schools for $200,000; and
• The employee assistance program at $4,000.
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said no one will lose their job as a result of the cuts. Instead, they were moved into vacant positions.
The district is saving $100,000 in energy costs and $130,000 by reducing its curriculum subscriptions such as Read180.
The reduction in energy costs comes as 12-month employees continue to work four 10-hour days each week during the summer. District officials also expect a mild winter.
After knocking the shortfall down to 1.1 million with those decisions, Grissom presented the board with five options.
All five plans include taking the following monies from the fund balance. They are as follows:
• Option I: $1.1 million to close the budget gap;
• Option II: $1.1 million along with $375,000 for classroom supplies;
• Option III (Approved by board): $1.1 million as well as $1.3 million for a 1 percent employee pay increase;
• Option IV: $1.1 million along with $570,000 to hire 20 teacher assistants, which were positions cut in the original budget;
• Option V: #1.1 million as well as $570,000 to hire 20 teacher assistants and $644,258 for a half percent pay increase.
The board approved option three with board member Mike Caskey casting the dissenting vote.
That plan will knock the fund balance down to about $3 million, chief financial officer Tara Trexler said.
Trexler had originally anticipated a budget gap of up to $6.5 million. But the state shortfall came in lower than anticipated at more than $4.8 million, down by about $1 million from last year.
The district also managed to stretch its $4.2 million federal Education Job money into this fiscal year by allocating about $3.2 million last year. The funds expire in September, but Grissom said the dollars will be spent in time.
The overall deficit for this fiscal year includes $160,000 to cover the 1.2 percent salary increase for locally paid employees and $250,000 to cover benefits for those staff members.
Grissom pointed out that the district has made more than $24 million in cuts throughout the past four years. That includes eliminating about 200 positions.
“If all 200 positions were in place right now there would be 200 more people employed in our school system and 200 more people employed in our county and it would certainly be helping the unemployment rate,” she said.
Grissom said the cuts haven’t impacted classrooms directly, but they have been felt on all levels.
“We have not cut classroom teachers, we have not raised classroom size, we have still given teachers the resources they need,” she said. “But the support, the infrastructure, the legs to the table, we’ve continued to cut those off.
“At some point the table is going to fall if we keep cutting the infrastructure out from under it.”
Detailed information about previous budget cuts can be found on the district’s website at http://www.rss.k12.nc.us/ by clicking “Budget Outlook” on the righthand side of the page.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.