CMS is examining all possibilities in trying to locate positions that can be cut to meet the expected shortfall in funds for 2009-2010. Superintendent Dr. Peter Gorman said they are trying to keep the cuts away from the classroom, but he might not have a choice.

“Once you get into the $50 million to $100 million range, there really is no place else to go,” Dr. Gorman told the Board.”

At Independence High School, Judy Kidd, who is the president of the North Carolina Classroom Teacher’s Association, as well as a teacher at the Big I, worries that the cuts in security could be too deep. Under the proposed cuts, high schools would lose as many as five security officers.

“It’s a safety and security issue,” Kidd said. “We can’t get proper supervision and safety with the numbers we have now.”

The CMS press release:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Feb. 12, 2009 – Employee furloughs, pay reductions and changes in class sizes were among the cost-cutting options discussed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education at a Feb. 12 budget work session.
The session was the second held by the Board as it seeks to provide guidance on a sharply reduced operating budget for 2009-2010. The national economic downturn has reduced local and state revenue, and CMS is looking at cuts ranging from $53 million to $87 million. In 2008-2009, the district’s budget was $1.2 billion.
CMS Superintendent Dr. Peter C. Gorman and Sheila Shirley, chief financial officer for the district, provided the Board with a list of potential cuts for the 2009-2010 budget that would cover $17.6 million in reductions of local funds and $35.7 million in reductions in state funds for a total of $53.3 million. But both cautioned that the final number for budget reduction is likely to be even higher.
Recent conversations with county officials suggest that the district could have to cut as much as 10 percent from its budget, Dr. Gorman said. Cuts in the 10 percent range could mean CMS would have to eliminate 1,200 or more positions.
“We’re going to have to sharpen our pencils and look for reductions we haven’t even thought of yet,” Dr. Gorman told the Board.
The possibilities that he offered to the Board for reduction included:
Cutting $17.2 million from central support and operations. These cuts, which would represent 7.4 percent of the division’s budget, would be made in communications, human resources, technology services, finance and school law enforcement, as well as other areas. It would also include cutting 170 positions, which represents five percent of the staffing in that division.
Cutting $14.8 million from the academic services division. These cuts, which would represent 7.4 percent of that division’s budget, would include curriculum and instruction, career and technical education, learning communities, Exceptional Children and English as a Second Language student education and professional development. It would also include cutting 128 positions, or 4.5 percent of division staff.
Cutting $23.3 million from the schools division. These cuts, which would represent 3.6 percent of the division’s budget, would include changing the formula for assigning assistant principals and support staff, reducing or eliminating teacher assistants and eliminating the local accountability bonus. It would also involve cutting 395 positions, which represents 3.8 percent of the division staff.
In addition, Dr. Gorman offered information about the financial implications of increasing the distance of no-transportation zones and by increasing class sizes. Board members agreed that they would like to keep the cuts as far from the classroom as possible – but they also acknowledged that with such large cuts, that might not be an option.
“Once you get into the $50 million to $100 million range, there really is no place else to go,” Dr. Gorman told the Board.
The Board did not vote on budget cuts. But it did resolve one issue that affects the budget: whether the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch (FRL) is an accurate proxy for poverty. Several Board members have questioned whether CMS should use the FRL number in allocating resources to schools because sampling has showed that some families who didn’t qualify were receiving the benefit.
“We are at a key point in building our budget models and we need to narrow this down today,” Dr. Gorman told the Board.
Jonathan Travers, a consultant with Education Resource Strategies (ERS), reviewed an earlier presentation that showed a high correlation between free and reduced-price lunch eligibility and incoming student performance.
“The fact that there are such close correlations means that CMS would see very little change” in resource allocation if the district used a formula that blends incoming student performance and FRL eligibility, Travers said.
After discussion, the Board agreed to use the FRL count in the 2009-2010 budget and asked that CMS develop a new formula for evaluation.
“This year, we ought to stay with free and reduced-price lunch,” said Molly Griffin, chairperson of the Board. “We shouldn’t try, in the midst of all the budget struggles we’re having, to change.” Other members of the Board concurred.
The Board will resume budget deliberations with another budget session on Feb. 24 in Room 267 of the Government Center.