After months of speculation and controversy, Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton proposed $19.1 million in budget cuts to the school board Tuesday.
Board members did not take a vote on the proposed cuts, but they appeared to agree with them in concept during a special meeting at the district's Central Office. Shelton said that would allow him to move ahead and develop a tentative budget that he will propose to the school board in May. This year's budget is $433.1 million.
Earlier this year, Shelton said he would have to find ways to cut $20 million, or 5 percent from the budget. His proposal is less than that initial estimate because the General Assembly provided for $1 million in additional state funding above the money required to give teachers a pay raise of 1 percent next school year.
Deeper cuts are proposed at the district level, reducing the overall impact of the cuts on schools in the district, school board chairman John Price said Tuesday.
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That meant a reduction of $1.6 million, or about 50 of 911 positions from people who work at Central Office or for transportation or the district's warehouse.
At schools, Shelton's budget proposal would call for the elimination of 60 full-time positions from the district's slightly more than 2,000 certified employee positions, including principals and teachers. About 30 positions would be cut from the more than 600 classified staff positions, which includes aides and maintenance staff.
The superintendent reiterated Tuesday that he didn't think tenured staff would be laid off. He said resignations and retirements would offset the position cuts.
Shelton, who has volunteered to take a 5 percent cut in his own salary, said he hates "to see anyone lose their position." He said district officials worked to reduce days that staff members worked instead of laying people off.
The district can save $4.4 million by reducing work calendars of employees. The proposal includes cutting two non-instructional days — work days for staff when students aren't present — from the base teaching calendar and taking five work days from the contracts of all year-round employees. Hourly employees who are paid for 14 "x-days" — paid days that are not worked — would lose five of those "x-days." School bus drivers and monitors would lose one work day, and elementary school counselors, social workers and technology resource teachers would lose five days each, Shelton's proposal said.
The district also would trim $1.4 million out of the budget through cuts to special schools and district-wide programs.
Special schools, such as The Learning Center at Linlee, Martin Luther King Jr. Academy for Excellence, The Stables, Eastside Technical Center and Locust Trace, would lose $850,000. The proposal would eliminate 13 certified positions.
District-wide programs — including band and orchestra, gifted and talented, English as a second language and World Languages — would lose $550,000, the proposal said.
Shelton said "very minor" staffing changes would be made to district-wide programs, which parents, teachers and students had been most vocal about saving. He said changes would be based on how many students are participating in the programs.
The report said those programs ultimately would lose about nine full-time positions.
Those cuts would include the elimination of 1.5 full- time positions in orchestra staff district wide; nearly two full-time positions, or 1.8, each in band and English as a second language, and about four full-time positions in World Languages.
No positions would be eliminated from the gifted and talented programs, but some schools could see an increase or decrease in staff. The proposal said 11 schools would see a slight reduction in staffing and nine schools would see an increase.
Special education would be cut by $2 million, the report said. District officials said that was because Fayette County has more special education aides than many districts of its size. The district would add seven special education teachers but would decrease the number of aides by 97. There are 335 special education aides, the report said.
Hours after the meeting, Shelton sent a letter to parents to "keep you up-to-date on our progress toward developing a budget for the 2014-15 school year."
The letter said that as "requested by our community, cuts to school staffing were minimized as much as possible. No changes were made to the student-teacher ratio." He said that, based on averages from the past two years, the district "typically loses 195 certified employees and 215 classified employees who leave the district each year through either retirement or resignation."
"Given the projected reductions, we remain confident that any reductions at the school level will be absorbed through attrition," his letter said.
Board member Daryl Love said the cuts proposed addressed many of the concerns expressed recently by residents who worried that student achievement would be hurt by budget reductions.
Services to students will not be affected, Love said.