Education

Bibb school system trims 62 jobs, and more cuts may be coming

Bibb County school board members voted to cut 62 jobs Tuesday night, but more belt-tightening measures could be in the offing.

The positions were identified in accordance with a reduction-in-force plan the school board adopted in February. The main reasons for the cuts are upcoming school consolidations and the end of funding for several grant programs, including Race to the Top, Elementary and Secondary School Counseling, and Hartley Elementary’s School Improvement Grant.

The 62 jobs -- 39 full time, 23 part time -- were broken down into a reduction-in-force list -- layoffs -- and a “non-renewal” list of those who were not offered contracts for next school year.

The RIF list consisted mostly of counselors and social workers. The non-renewal list was mostly teachers. Those decisions were based on a combination of factors, including tenure status and budget allocations to determine if the position would be available in the next fiscal year.

“This is our standard renewal process every year,” said Myra Abrams, Bibb’s human resources director. “When there is staffing for the next year, they determine who they want to bring back and who they don’t.” She added that “the budget process is still ongoing” and there could be more cuts depending on the final budget.

Ron Collier, the system’s chief financial officer, presented a list of potential cost-cutting measures to the board Tuesday night. The list comprised school consolidations/closings, 10 percent reduction in operating costs, targeted contract buyouts (early retirement), system level staff reductions, zero-based budgeting for travel and service contracts, employee furloughs, renewed emphasis on energy conservation, targeted hiring freeze (reduce staff through attrition) and outsourcing.

Superintendent Curtis Jones went down the list during the board meeting seeking consensus from members on the proposed cuts. By a show of hands, the majority of board members were on board with most of the suggestions except for employee furloughs.

Jones added it would be difficult to sustain no employ furloughs, but it was clear that none of the board members wanted to entertain that prospect.

As far as zero-based budgeting for service contracts, board member Tom Hudson said, “There’s been a lot of wasteful spending.”

Also, board member Wanda West said she wouldn’t oppose reducing travel for employees and board members, but she wanted to make sure there would still be funds for students to travel for learning purposes.

Job losses could bring additional savings by cutting down on related costs, such as health care. The state Legislature recently pushed an additional cost of health care -- to the tune of $150 per participating employee -- on to the local school districts when it passed the state budget last month.

Bibb’s total cost in the added health care is a little more than $1 million.

The school board has a couple more work sessions scheduled for May to complete the budget, which will solidify any additional cuts or changes in personnel.

To contact writer David Schick, call 744-4382.

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