Sup’t.: Cut positions by attrition, shift health costs to employees
Time is drawing near for the Fayette County Board of Education to begin making decisions about the 2012-2013 budget that begins July 1. In that regard Superintendent Jeff Bearden in a report at the school board meeting Monday night presented a number of proposals aimed at reducing expenditures next year.
The current proposal includes additional cuts in personnel by attrition beyond those already recommended, by shifting some healthcare insurance costs to employees and by reducing the operations budget. The entire list of proposals will be considered by the school board later in the spring as they prepare to adopt the budget in June.
By way of background, the Fayette County School System budget for 2011-2012 totals $170.2 million in revenues and $186.7 million in expenditures. The budget was balanced by using money from the school system’s fund balance.
Bearden in conversations last fall said that $10 million would likely need to be cut for the coming school year in order to balance the budget. Following that line of reasoning, he recommended a reduction of days in the school calendar that would save $3.3 million. The board approved the new calendar in December.
Bearden in February recommended another $4.2 million in savings by reducing 72.5 school-based positions by attrition. Adding to the total of $13.6 million in proposed savings thus far was a $6.1 million growth in the fund balance as of February, Bearden said.
The meeting Monday included another set of recommendations that the school board will address as budget talks begin. Those recommendations come with a savings of $3.638 million.
The proposals included a savings of $388,000 by turning full-time assistant principals into part-time positions at the less populated schools: Brooks Elementary School, Tyrone Elementary School, Bennett’s Mill Middle School and Sandy Creek High School.
Other proposed reductions included reducing the Gifted/LA Curriculum Coordinator from full-time to part-time, eliminating the Deputy Superintendent’s secretary and having both Fred Oliver and Bearden share a secretarial position.
Still other reductions, all by attrition, included eliminating a building assistant in Facilities Services, a secretary at the alternative school, and five bus drivers.
Board member Bob Todd in a comment on the proposed reduction of five bus drivers noted that more consolidation of bus routes might be in order.
“We have the same number of bus drivers we had before we lost 1,800 students (over the past few years),” Todd said, with Bearden in response saying that further consolidation is currently being reviewed.
Another recommendation would have department heads reduce the operations budget by 10 percent, excluding energy costs, for a total savings of $750,000.
The final recommendation is one that deals with employee healthcare costs. Bearden is recommending that the school system save $2.5 million by no longer paying the $71 per month local supplement for health insurance for all employees and $22 per month for dental coverage. Bearden said the school system has been informed that the healthcare premiums for classified (non-teaching) positions will increase by $150 per employee per month in July, by an additional $150 per employee per month in July 2013 and yet another increase of $150 per employee per month in July 2014.
“Basically we’re seeing our rates triple for classified employees from 2011-2014,” Bearden said, adding that the school system cannot afford the increasing healthcare insurance prices.
Bearden said the situation may get to the point that the school system has to examine outside vendors for healthcare benefits.
Commenting on the healthcare situation during the public comments portion of the meeting was McIntosh High School teacher and PAGE (Professional Association of Georgia Educators) representative Joseph Jarrell.
In advocating for insurance to be the last thing to be cut, Jarrell noted that with the reduction in pay from the new 177-day calendar and the cost of employees making up the local supplements for health and dental insurance it would be the lower paid employees such as lunch room staff and bus drivers that would take the largest hit.
Jarrell also noted the larger issue of salaries and tied those in with the insurance issue.
“Every study over the years shows that we are constantly below average in salaries,” Jarrell said. “If Fayette County employees got the average salary and then we eliminated the supplement the employees would be in favor of it.”
All said, the entire list of recommended cuts to date total $11.138 million along with the $6.1 million in projected savings in the fund balance, Bearden said. Now totaling $17.2 million, that figure outstrips the original goal of cutting $10 million to balance the budget.
Still unknown at this time are issues such as the amount of state dollars expected to be received next year and the full impact of decreasing property tax dollars since the tax digest numbers will not be out for another few weeks.
“Everything is on the table for balancing the budget,” Bearden told board members.