ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Education approved both some personnel hires as well as a reduction in force list this week.
Bladen County Schools Superintendent Robert Taylor said, “There are general statute requirements about how you notify a teacher involved in a reduction in force.”
Taylor said the board had to eliminate about $2.5 million from the proposed 2014-15 budget which resulted in the elimination of 60 total positions. Of those 60 positions, only 30 involved an actual person being sent home, said Taylor.
“We had a lot of people retire and a lot moved on to other jobs,” said Taylor.
He noted that the budget was on the agenda to be discussed, but due to the fact the state still has not adopted its budget, there was nothing done with the matter. Taylor said he did talk to the board regarding the reduction in force and advised them to consider implementing it. The reduction in force list included, but was not limited to, such areas as guidance counselors, physical education, and classroom teachers.
He said those impacted by the reduction in force have all been notified and there is a process whereby they can appeal.
“They can appeal to the board and the board can decide if they want to continue with the reduction,” said Taylor.
He said if the board takes no action on the appeal, than the reduction stands.
“Bladen County Schools, as a result, will employ 60 less people this year (2014-15). Of those, 30 people actually have no job,” said Taylor. “That will have an impact on families.”
Teacher pay raises has been on the radar of the N.C. Senate and Taylor said that he and his staff have been monitoring the issue. He said the larger issue locally will not be how much the raise is but how the General Assembly will choose to fund the raises. Taylor said most budget areas will not be impacted by the raises, but if the legislature decides to fund the raises through the Teacher Assistant line item, then that could potentially affect the number of teacher assistant positions available.
Taylor said across the state, the number of teacher assistants has gone from 30,000 to about 21,000. He said that directly correlates with funds for the state.
He said the lack of a state budget is frustrating at the local level.
“It makes it very difficult if you have no idea what the budget will look like, but you also have an obligation to the principals and at some point you have to lock in to what you gave the schools,” said Taylor.
Taylor said planning for the budget began in February and that school board staff opted to use last year’s numbers as the basis for building this year’s budget. He said that last year the board committed about $1.9 million from the general fund to balance the budget. This year, they chose to cut $2.5 million up front rather than use dollars from the general fund to balance the budget.
Taylor said the staff also did the budget planning with a 3 percent raise figured into the budget. He added that if the state comes up with a larger number for a raise, the proposed budget should be able to cover it.
Taylor said those that have been rifted from their positions will get to keep their health care coverage for up to one year depending on the situation they may also be eligible for unemployment benefits, said Taylor.
He said the board knew that the 60 positions were going to have to be eliminated regardless of what the state did.
“That is the most difficult thing you do as a district is call someone and inform them you no longer have a job because of the budget,” said Taylor. “Some understand, some don’t understand. It’s tough.”
Over a two-year period, the district has shed about 100 positions, said Taylor.