Bibb schools may cut pay for 861 employees

Bibb County schools Superintendent Sharon Patterson proposed Thursday to cut her salary 2 percent (about $3,920), and to furlough principals four to five days this school year to save money.

In order to save the school system $904,846 because of a $1.4 million state cut announced earlier in the week, Patterson proposed that any system employee who works more than 200 days per school year take a 2 percent pay cut.

It would affect 861 employees — about a fourth of their work force — ranging from central office staff, campus police officers and custodians to school counselors and secretaries. Those employees would be furloughed four or five days this school year.

The proposal would not affect teachers, paraprofessionals or bus drivers, she said.

“I based my recommendation on the belief that an education of a second-grader not be impacted by the economy,” Patterson said. “Some of these days would be taken the week of spring break or after students leave” for the school year.

“Our teachers will be in the classroom every day serving their students,” she added.

Tuesday, Gov. Sonny Perdue announced that because of a decline in anticipated revenue, he would be amending the 2009 state budget again and reducing the Department of Education’s budget by $98.7 million in this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Patterson said for Bibb that would be a $1.2 million to $1.4 million loss in funding that they had already budgeted to spend.

Last fall, the state had also cut more than $2.5 million from Bibb’s budget.

Bibb plans to collect $176.9 million in state, federal and local money and spend $183.9 million.

Although the school system may get up to $18 million from the federal economic stimulus plan for low-income schools and students with disabilities, the money could not be used in the general budget for salaries and operation, Patterson said.

In the past two school years, Bibb used $9.7 million in its unreserved funds to cover shortfalls and plans to end this school year with an unreserved fund balance of about $8 million. School system officials try to keep between $17 million to $20 million for emergencies.

If anticipated local tax dollars don’t arrive to the system this fall to fuel the system budget there would not be enough money in the unreserved fund at that rate to pay teachers, said board member Tommy Barnes.

“This was a reaction knowing where we could be going,” he said.

Although the proposed cuts were an action item at Thursday night’s school board meeting, board members were reluctant to approve it. Some were concerned they hadn’t had enough notice and others want to look at all alternatives.

“That’s an impact on groceries for some of these families,” board member Lynn Farmer said. “I’d like to be sure there are not other options.”

The school board tabled the proposal and plan to regroup within the next two weeks.

Traditionally, teachers work 190 days each school year while principals work between 220 to 230 days. Central office staff and custodians work up to 244 days per school year.

The proposed cuts would come out of employees’ paychecks at a prorated amount between March and June.

According to school officials, it would be an annual cut of $2,520 for a high school principal who makes about $115,000 a year to about $400 for a custodian who earns on average $20,000 a year.

“Do we want to take a pay cut? No one does,” said Vineville Academy principal Paulette Winters. “Times are tough. We’re thankful we have jobs.”

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.