Thursday, March 19, 2009

CMS staff presents adjusted budget options

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Dr. Peter C. Gorman unveiled an adjusted schedule of
cost reductions for the 2009-2010 school year at a work session of the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education March 19. The new proposal
pushes the reduction of teaching staff further back in the proposed
series of tiered reductions, so that additional cuts in other areas
will be made first.

The adjusted budget proposals call for $51.3 million in spending
reductions, which would flatten the district's funding request to the
county so that no increase over last year is requested. Those
reductions would allow the district to cover the costs of sustaining
operations, growth, new schools and new initiatives without asking for
additional money from the county.

If the district is required by shortfalls in county and state funding
to reduce spending even more, the new schedule of reductions
establishes four consecutive tiers of reductions. Taken together with
the $51.3 million in cuts, the tiers could cut district spending by
$86.4 million.

"We have spared schools as much as possible and we are making the
largest cuts to schools in the last tiers, not the first," Dr. Gorman
told the Board. "This amended reduction proposal is intended to give
us the needed reductions while still allowing us to be flexible and
agile enough to restore positions if we do not end up with the worst-
case scenario. We do not want to reduce the number of teachers in our
schools, and we do not want to lay off employees – but both may be
necessary and we want to do this in a careful, well-thought-out way if
indeed we have to do it."

The new proposals were the latest development in the district's budget
process. A final decision on a proposed budget will be decided by
Board vote May 12. The final decision on the amount of county funding
the district receives will be made by the Mecklenburg Board of County
Commissioners in June.

The basic reduction proposal would trim $51.3 million in all from the
budget, with $17.6 million coming from central support and operations,
$15.4 million from academic services and $18.3 million from schools.
That represents 4.8 percent of the $1.07 billion in state and county
funding the district received in 2008-2009.

The basic reduction would also trim 534 positions across the district.
It would trim 91 (7.5 percent) of 1,211 positions in central
operations funded by state and county money. It would trim 133 (5.5
percent) of 2,440 positions funded by state and county money in
academic services, and 310 (2.4 percent) of 12,921 position in schools.

Tier 1 would make reductions in transportation, furniture and staff
development costs, and change the formulas for allocating third-grade
teacher assistants and assistant principals at all levels. It would
cut $11.5 million in costs and trim 244 positions.

Tier 2 would change teacher staffing formulas to increase teacher/
pupil ratios in grades nine through 12, remove all teacher assistants
in the third grade and change teacher/pupil ratios for kindergarten
through third grade in high-needs schools. It would reduce costs by
$8.3 million and trim 232 positions.

Tier 3 would increase teacher/pupil ratios in grades six through eight
and further increase the ratios in grades nine through 12. It would
reduce costs by $7.6 million and reduce 157 positions.

Tier 4 would further increase teacher/pupil ratios in elementary
schools and in grades six through eight, further increase teacher/
pupil ratios in grades nine through 12 and change the formula for
assistant principal staffing at all levels. It would reduce costs by
$7.7 million and trim 149 positions.

If all four tiers are used, the district would eliminate 367 teacher
positions in all.

CMS staff also provided several other options to the Board of
Education to reduce costs, including reducing the local supplement
(equal to the state-mandated increase) paid to keep CMS teacher
salaries competitive. This would keep teacher salaries flat at
2008-2009 levels. The option would also eliminate transportation for
grandfathered students. Those reductions would total $13.7 million,
according to staff calculations.