Schools discuss furloughs to cut budget

Published 10:49 pm Thursday, April 5, 2012

Furloughing workers to balance the budget was seriously considered at a Suffolk School Board meeting Thursday evening where the precariousness of the district’s financial state hit home.

The district has asked the city for a total $50.6 million, $7 million more than the previous year, but Suffolk has proposed giving it only $46.6 million.

Board member Enoch Copeland raised the prospect of introducing furlough days, telling the meeting, “That way, everybody can keep their job.”

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Board member Phyllis Byrum agreed. “I think we should seriously look at furloughs,” she said. “We should really consider that. I have heard from some employees … who have voiced their opinion that they would rather see a furlough than their colleagues displaced from their jobs.”

Director of Finance Wendy Forsman gave a breakdown of how much furloughs would save — and cost.

A one-day furlough for all employees would save $370,000, four days $1.47 million, and five days $1.8 million, she said

“The majority of our people are teachers,” she said. “I’m not sure how you are going to shave five days off their contracts and accomplish professional development and the things you need in our schools.”

Copeland also indicated that a proposed 2-percent raise for employees, who haven’t had one for years, is now not possible.

“I feel that the $2 million we were speaking of for a two percent rise, that’s off the table,” he said.

Superintendent Deran Whitney told the meeting that “a little over 40” employees received layoff notices this week.

“All departments are being affected by this,” Whitney said.

He said he did not expect new positions to be available through attrition for “a little less than half” of a total 89 employees receiving layoff notices.

“We need to be prepared for what are our next steps,” he said.

Board members also proposed asking city hall for extra money a second time.

“We all need to show up as a body to the City Council meeting on the 18th and plead our cases,” Thelma Hinton said.