Budget crunch will shorten Fayette's next school year, cut staff pay
A budget crisis for the Fayette County Board of Education means a later start and a shorter school year for students and smaller paychecks for nearly all system employees for next year. The board on Dec. 12 approved the school calendar for FY 2012-2013 on a 4-1 vote. The new calendar comes with 177 school days and a savings of $3.3 million through decreased employee work days and reduced costs for fuel and utilities. The school year will begin on Aug. 13 and end on May 24.
Longtime board member Marion Key called the approach “piecemeal,” and registered her displeasure with the budgeting process with a vote against the calendar.
The impetus to re-work the calendar was driven by tight finances, given that the school system has been looking for ways to trim $10 million off the FY 2012-2013 budget that begins in July.
Students will arrive for their first day of school on Aug. 13 while teachers will begin pre-planning on Aug. 6. The last day of school will come on May 24.
The new calendar shows Thanksgiving break running from Nov. 19-23, Christmas/semester break from Dec. 24 through Jan. 4, winter break from Feb. 18-22 and spring break from April 1-5.
The calendar includes 177 student days compared to the customary 180-day schedule. That decrease also includes a salary hit since 180-day employees such as bus drivers and food service staff will work the equivalent 177 days.
Beyond the decrease of three student days, the calendar also has teachers losing five days by working 185 days instead of the usual 190 days while 210-day and 240-day employees will lose five days during the school year.
Superintendent Jeff Bearden in recommending the new calendar said the starting date for students will be pushed back one week to maximize the savings on utility costs.
In financial terms, the new calendar will generate a total savings of $3,314,818. That breaks down into a savings of $3,216,418 in salaries, $23,400 in decreased fuel costs and a $75,000 decrease in utilities.
Bearden said the 10-member calendar committee was in unanimous support of the new schedule and had solicited input from a number of stakeholders before making the recommendation.
But when it came to the vote on the calendar, the school board was not unanimous, with board member Marion Key voting in opposition. Key after the meeting said her “no” vote was not centered on the calendar itself.
“I have no problem with the calendar per se. I’m tired of getting the (FY2012-2013) budget piecemeal,” Key said, referring to the insistence of some on the board that Bearden lay out all his recommendations for cutting approximately $10 million from current expenses to give the school board the ability to pass a balanced budget for next school year.
The new calendar is the first of the expense reductions to be recommended, even though three of the five board members months ago had asked that Bearden provide his recommendation for the entire $10 million prior to the Christmas break. “I want the (recommended) cuts all at one time,” Key said.