Houston school board may cut another $16M; teachers' jobs at risk

PERRY — A revised budget modification plan was presented to the Houston County Board of Education on Wednesday afternoon that would amount to about $16 million in spending cuts if approved.

The plan builds upon about $4 million in cuts the school board approved at its April 13 meeting, which cut 80 classified positions from its payrolls.

Presented for consideration to the board, the final budget will not be approved until June 30, said board Chairman Tom Walmer. The school system is expecting to make up to $25 million in total cuts from its budget.

Assistant superintendent for finance and business operations Stephen Thublin, who presented the revised plan, said additional cuts would include 94 certified positions, which also includes retirements and resignations, that would amount to $5.9 million in cuts, $1 million in reduced operating costs and a reduction of two more classified jobs, cutting nearly $70,000.

Certified positions include teachers, guidance counselors and administrators, while an example of classified positions include clerks, central office staff and nurses.

All staff would also see a work calendar reduction of between two to six days, depending on position, which would save another $4.8 million.

The measures would cut nearly 19 percent of central office staff expenses and 4 percent of school personnel expenses, Walmer noted.

The board also approved a revised school calendar for the current school year which includes six fewer staff days due to state budget cuts. In addition to eliminating a professional learning day on Jan. 19 and closing school on Feb. 12 this year, Houston County schools will now be closed May 21.

Later, the board voted on a handful of motions.

Regarding whether to replace Assistant Superintendent for School Operations Robin Hines, who was recently chosen to replace the retiring David Carpenter as superintendent, a motion failed 3-3, as board member Fred Wilson was absent from the meeting.

A motion to cut 17 staff members known as “49 percenters” also failed, 3-3. The motion referred to part-time employees working no more than 49 percent of the work week, many who have retired and are collecting benefits from the Teacher Retirement System.

In a third motion, the board decided to reconsider the status of the “49 percenters” at its May 11 meeting in a 5-1 vote, with Walmer dissenting.

“I don’t see anything changing between now and (then),” Walmer said

The meeting lasted more than two hours, primarily in executive session.

“It’s part of the process,” Carpenter said. “It’s a long process, but we just want to get it right.”