Fayette classified employees sign petition to school board opposing cuts in paid days

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comApril 22, 2014 

Fayette County Public Schools central offices at 701 East Main Street, Lexington.


About 89 Fayette County Public Schools classified employees have signed and sent a petition to school board members expressing concern about how impending budget cuts would affect them.

Members of the school board have received a petition from hourly classified employees who work year round about a proposal to cut five paid non-work days from their contracts, Fayette Superintendent Tom Shelton said.

Classified employees are not teachers but include technicians and maintenance personnel.

The district is in the process of making a $20 million cut to the 2014-2015 budget. The current budget is about $433 million.

The petition said that the proposed five-day cut would constitute a considerable cut in living expenses — as much as $100 per month — for some employees.

"This will have the largest impact on the quality of life for those paid the least," said Scott Fitch, one of the employees who signed the petition.

Shelton said that as the district faced the challenge of reducing spending by 5 percent, the top priority has been to make cuts as far away from students and schools as possible.

In order to maintain the high quality of educational offerings in schools, he said school leaders looked first at reductions in district-level services.

"While we are still finalizing these proposals," he said. "One thing we are considering is reducing the number of contract days for year-round employees. If that proposal moves forward, it would take our year-round classified hourly employees from a 261-day contract to a 256-day contract. Their contract includes 231 work days, 12 vacation days, four holidays and 14 "x-days," which are days that employees are paid for but don't work.

These workers also are eligible for emergency leave, personal leave and sick leave, Shelton said.

Shelton said the idea is to remove five of the "x-days" for which the employees receive pay but do not work.

"We are sensitive to the individual impact these changes will have on our employees, and believe that most people will see very little change in their actual pay," he said.

Moving from a 261-day contract to a 256-day contract is about a 2 percent reduction, Shelton said. Since all employees will receive a 1 percent raise as mandated by the General Assembly, and a roughly 1.5 percent increase through a "step-up" for experience, the loss of five days will be more than offset by the salary increase, he said.

But Fitch said the amount of money being saved by reducing the number of "x-days" will total $680,000. That amount will only offset 3.5 percent of the $20 million deficit, he said. Losing these days will not amount to much in the budget but it will mean a great deal to the lowest-paid employees in the school system, Fitch said.

School board member Amanda Ferguson said her concern "is that it seems people all over the district are being told things about their employment status but nothing specific has been presented to the board. It has caused a great deal of anxiety and worry for a lot of people."

Ferguson said she is getting questions she can't answer.

The Fayette School board is set to discuss the budget at a special meeting April 29.

Valarie Honeycutt-Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears

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