Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Board of Education examines budget-cutting options

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education held a work session on
the budget March 30, with two major areas of discussion. District
staff announced a plan to reorganize the learning communities for next
year and asked for guidance on eight budget-cutting opportunities.

Final budget numbers for the district are not yet available, but CMS
has set a target amount for reductions in the 2010-2011 budget of
$73.6 million, the superintendent and chief financial officer said.

"This number includes an assumption – and right now, that's all it is
– that our county cut will be 6.5 percent and our state reduction will
be 4 percent, " Dr. Peter C. Gorman told the Board.

Ann Clark, the district's chief academic officer, presented a plan for
the learning communities that will create five zones, instead of the
current six geographic areas and the Achievement Zone. The plan will
reduce learning community staffing from 55 positions to 30, with a
total expected savings of $3.6 million.

Clark said that the district's Title I department will be reorganized
to provide supplemental support to Title I schools in alignment with
the zones.

The new zones and their area superintendents are: Northeast Zone to be
led by Scott Muri; East Zone, led by Joel Ritchie; Southwest Zone, led
by Monique Gardner-Witherspoon; Central Elementary Zone, led by Tyler
Ream and Central Secondary Zone, led by Curtis Carroll.

Under the reorganization, which takes effect July 1, the Title I
department will support the Central Elementary and Secondary zones.
Metro and Morgan schools will continue to be supervised by Dr. Jane
Rhyne. The district's pre-kindergarten centers will be assigned to
the Central Elementary Zone and will be supervised by Ream.

District staff also reviewed the most recent budget scenarios with the

"As of now, we have identified $66.7 million in cuts, so we need to
find another $6.9 million," Gorman said. "We are asking Board members
to tell us whether they would support any of eight different cost-
cutting measures."

The first option discussed was cutting CMS-TV, the district's
television station, entirely. The Board asked for more information and
directed staff to continue research on possible partnerships with the
county and the city for a shared broadcast operation, as well as data
about CMS TV viewership. Board Chair Eric C. Davis, who represents
District 5, said he would also discuss it with the city and county.

A second option was a two-day furlough for all employees. The Board
directed staff to pursue the possibility of a furlough aggressively
with the North Carolina legislature. At present, the district does not
have the authority to issue a furlough.

A third option was delaying the opening of two new high schools next
year, Mint Hill High and W. A. Hough High. The Board did not support
this option.

A fourth option was the addition of shuttle stops for elementary
students who attend a magnet school. Citing concerns with student
safety, the Board did not support this option.

A fifth option was closing some schools. The Board did not support
this option, although some members noted that this was an issue that
could be examined later.

A sixth option was reducing the formula used for weighted student
staffing, which directs extra resources and staff to schools with high
numbers of students in poverty or who are learning English. The Board
did not support lowering the number used for weighted-student staffing.

A seventh option was additional staff reductions, to be accomplished
by increasing the number of students per classroom, lowering the
number of teachers and other staff needed. The Board did not support
this option.

Finally, the Board discussed salary reductions. District
staff advised the Board that such reductions raise legal issues. If
the cuts are made for every employee, some CMS employees will fall
below the state-required minimum wage. The number of such employees
rises as the percentage of the cut increases. The Board did not
support this option.

"The dollars are getting harder to find," Dr. Gorman told the Board,
echoing an earlier comment by a Board member that the last $7 million
in cuts for next year will be more painful than the first $70 million.