The RIF plan was designed to shave $10.4 million from the school system’s budget — a response to a decade of state cuts that total $50 million.
Despite numerous efforts over the last few years to avoid staffing cuts, administrators said it was time to accept that, due to economic hardships, no restoration of education funding is on the horizon.
“After a certain period of time, you see that’s maybe not a short-term thing,” said Tim Hensley, assistant to Superintendent Jeff McDaniel. “Maybe it’s the new normal of what we’re dealing with, looking at where we are and what we have to be for next year.”
Out of options
The school system has implemented furlough days in recent years, but Hensley said on Saturday that it would have taken around 30 furlough days in the next school year to put a dent in the dearth.
“The biggest reductions in state spending have been in the last three years, the largest percentage of those cuts,” Hensley said. “They’ve been happening since 2003, but it was mainly $2 million, $3 million — then all of a sudden it was $8 million to $9 million three years in a row.”
He said he couldn’t speak on behalf of former superintendents, but he emphasized that all options had been explored before the system resigned to the RIF.
“We were trying to do everything we could to keep from doing what we’ve had to do now,” he said. “After 10 years, things build up. The options become very few that you have to work with. It’s not like we haven’t done anything in 10 years; we’ve had cuts throughout that time.”
Administrative staff, or those who work on a 12-month schedule, have had furlough days each year before the system-wide furloughs were put into place to save money. That was implemented even before 2003, when Kelly Henson was superintendent.
Hensley reeled off a list of other cost-saving efforts of the past: delayed bus purchases, delayed textbook purchases, reduced training, instituted a number of spending freezes for a period of time during the last 10 school years, instituted hiring freezes for periods of time during the school year.
Administrators also reduced staffing slowly, by not replacing some retiring personnel over the last 10 years. The number of employees dropped by 200 during the past decade, to just more than 1,600 before the RIF. Staff has delayed purchases when possible and instituted energy-saving policies to reduce consumption. Maintenance projects have also been delayed.
Hensley said the budget was still $7 million to $8 million short of where it needed to be, forcing the administration to “take a hard journey up another avenue.”
In an email issued system-wide by McDaniel on Friday, the budgeted expenditures for 2013 was $94,526,867. With anticipated revenue for Fiscal Year 2014 at $86,072,000, if the system kept everything as is, it would be nearly $8 million short to cover all the costs, he said.
Projected increases in expenditures in coming years pushed that number more than $2 million higher, he said, so the system needed $10 million in additional revenue to meet projections.
Even if the Floyd County Board of Education raised taxes from 18.588 mills to the maximum — there’s a 20-mill state cap — it wouldn’t garner enough revenue to have a major impact on the deficit, McDaniel said.
One furlough day saves $300,000, but the system can’t afford to have more than 10 without affecting students’ education. And the ending balance at the end of the school year must be at least $7 million in order to make payroll and pay the bills during the summer, he said.
With 90 percent of the school system’s budget spent on salaries and benefits, a RIF couldn’t have been avoided any longer.
“You don’t buy buses for a while. You don’t spend money on facilities for a while. You don’t buy books for a while,” Hensley said. “But eventually, after 10 years, you have to begin to do those things. You can’t have school out in a field with no building and no bus to get them there. At some point you have to cut money from personnel.”
During the RIF and restructuring process, anyone with a teaching certificate who held a position outside the classroom that was eliminated was then considered for a teaching position. That resulted in 34 certified personnel being reassigned to classrooms.
In the Central Office and Central Administration restructuring, 17 positions are being eliminated or left unfilled: three directors, five coordinators, five certified slots and four classified slots.
Administrators who work in both the Central Office and in schools — as well as head football coaches — will have their contracts cut by five days for 2014 and five more days in 2015.
Nine assistant principal positions will be eliminated, including some instructional coaches with administrative duties who act as assistant principals on the elementary school level.
“They essentially had the same duties as an assistant principal; they just changed the names a few years ago,” Hensley
said. “We currently have one at every school. In the new alignment there will be two schools that are sharing one.”
Six interventionist positions will be eliminated. Those positions were added two years ago with federal stimulus package funds, but the money was only available for two years.
The Floyd County Alternative School program will move next to the Compass program on the Coosa High campus. The Performance Learning Center will move to the College and Career Academy campus. From sharing staffers, 16 positions will be eliminated.
Nine counseling positions also are being erased. Next year there will be one counselor at the high-school level on a 195-day contract, one counselor at the middle-school level on a 190-day contract and a half-time counselor at the elementary level on a 190-day contract.
Twenty teaching positions were eliminated when they lost targeted state funding, four positions were eliminated from the High School 101 course, and reductions were made in funding for the Communities in Schools program.
Eleven school secretary positions were eliminated — leaving three secretaries at each high school, two secretaries at each middle school and two secretaries at each elementary school.
Scheduling changes on the middle-school level — a hybrid between block and period scheduling — will be implemented. This includes the restructuring of “connections” courses such as art and computer classes, which allows eight positions to be cut. Restructuring elective classes cut four more slots.
Custodial and maintenance services also were restructured so that fewer materials will be ordered for the services.
A freeze has been placed on step-raises for classified personnel, and a type of health care option available for employees, called Board Paid Life, has been eliminated.
Fine arts and physical education courses also were restructured to eliminate three positions, so there will be one teacher for each of the two courses at Cave Spring Elementary, McHenry Primary and Midway Primary.
Hensley said that because some schools will be losing more certified teachers than others — for example, two at Armuchee High compared to five at Model High — those teachers who remain may be assigned to different schools to help balance the changes.
Hensley said he knows this is an emotional time for the Floyd County Schools community because names and faces are attached to the 119 who will not be returning for the next school year.
On paper, the number looks harsh, he said, yet Floyd County Schools currently employs 1,604 people, 940 of whom are certified.
In his email, McDaniel said he wanted to make sure every employee knew why the RIF was necessary and emphasized that he did not go through the process lightly. He said notifications went out now, 90 days before contracts are due, to give the RIFed more time to prepare.
“I have already been in touch with professional associations to enlist their help in assisting our employees with information and services,” McDaniel wrote. “I trust that by making this decision early, we have given you the best opportunity to secure a new position for next school year.”
Hensley said that when the RIF changes were being considered, McDaniel tried to preserve as many school programs as he could for the students.
“We could have just slashed categories,” he said. “But Dr. McDaniel wanted to continue to offer art, music and P.E. He wanted to continue to have media services in the schools and not just completely cut things, but go in and restructure to keep things available for those kids — maybe delivering them in a different way but keeping them available.”
The decisions made were taxing on everyone involved, he said, but at this point it’s the only way to make sure the school system is financially sound.
“Those were difficult things to do but, again, where do you go if you don’t?” Hensley said. “Our options were to be significantly in the red for next year, and as a school system that’s not an option that we have.”