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School Board Approves Reduction in Force

School Board Approves Reduction in Force

During the webcasted Troup County School Board meeting Thursday night, the board voted unanimously to authorize a Reduction in Force for school system employees.

A Reduction in Force (RIF) of $2.2 million was recommended by School Superintendent Brian Shumate to address a planned budget deficit of $1.8 million and to balanced comprehensive budget plan for the 2021 fiscal year.

Prior to the vote, Summate addressed concerns over the budget shortfall, saying that it’s a planned reduction in increased spending that was meant to boost tests scores and graduation rates. The money was spent out of reserve funding, but cannot continue indefinitely.

“This $1.8 million [deficit] was by design. The board was criticized for having too much fund balance and they invested in some educational initiatives. The year prior it was about $5 million to spend down the fund balance. Last spring we reduced it from five down to about 1.8 and we actually got gains from this. It was kind of like a stimulus package,” said Shumate.

Sumate noted that College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRP) scores and graduation rate actually increased because of the reserve fund spending, but the increased spending was always planned to be temporary.

“Our CCRP scores went up, the state remained flat, and we closed the gap a bit,” said Shumate. “Now it’s time to reconcile.”

The school system will still keep a reserve fund balance of about 15 percent for operations and emergencies.

“The reason we have a fund balance is for days like this,” advised Shumate. “This [coronavirus] crisis will cost the district money. How much? I don’t know yet. That’s why we want to keep about 15 percent in reserve.”

Shumate noted that they can’t just keep using banked funds to maintain the increased number of employees, so the Reduction in Force was recommended.

Chief Human Resource Officer Chip Medders advised that they plan on using attrition to handle most of the Reduction in Force, meaning that when employees retire or quit, other current employees will take over for them or their positions will be eliminated. Terminating employees will be a last resort.

This is the way the school system has handled Reductions in Force in the past, noted School Board Member and former teacher, Cathy Hunt.

“I lived through a RIF during the recession. That acronym struck fear in the heart of employees, but honestly I cannot remember anybody not having a job. Attrition took care of it. The cuts we had to make then were even bigger than we are talking about now,” said Hunt. “I would just like to ask that we always pay attention to class size. If we are to lose some teachers, we need to make sure that we maintain very

good, as

small as possible, class sizes.”

School Board Chairman Kirk Hancock acknowledged that the timing of the decision was difficult, as it will be difficult to communicate with employees while schools are out, but contract renewals need to go out soon.

“We have timelines of when contracts need to go out,” said Hancock, noting they are currently working on next year’s budget.

State guidelines say all contracts must be out by May 15.

“The good news is that we are large enough. We have over 1,800 employees. We’re large enough to make some reductions. I think we can get leaner and better, and still maintain the program we have, while helping people land on their feet,” said Shumate.

The author of this article can be reached via email at info@troupcountynews. net.

Tommy Murphy Staff Writer