Budget-Cutting Questions & Answers
June 5, 2013
Why not cut at the district level?
Marion County Public Schools has eliminated dozens of district positions over the last five years, reassigned others back to the school level, and has the second-lowest administrative cost of all 67 Florida school districts. The district has forgone major technology upgrades, bus purchases, and other big-dollar items to keep more resources directly in the classroom. In the last decade, Marion County’s population grew 24 percent. During that same time, the district built six schools, added 434 teaching positions, 229 support positions, 10 school administrator positions, and eliminated 145 non-instructional positions. Given this, the district also cut its budget by $30 million since 2007.
Why cut first-year teachers?
53 art, music, physical education, media specialist, vocational administrator and testing coordinator positions, along with a number of other school-based teaching units, were eliminated from the 2013-2014 staffing plan. 160 first-year teachers were laid off to create vacancies for these teachers who have more seniority.
Why eliminate art, music and PE from elementary schools?
These programs have NOT been eliminated. All elementary students will still receive these programs but with fewer teachers.
What about files on my H: drive / classroom computer?
If teachers want access to stored files, they should save them to a thumb drive. Another option is to create a free account online offering free storage (Microsoft, Google, etc.) and transfer those files to that online location. Teachers will not have access to files once they are no longer employed by the district.
Why not get rid of the “bad” teachers so new teachers can stay?
Teachers with poor performance are released by their principals during the year or not reappointed for the next year. However, the number of teachers released for performance reasons did not create the number of vacancies necessary to place more senior teachers whose positions were lost in various cuts. The district hopes to rehire some first-year teachers to fill any remaining full-time teaching positions and
certified substitute positions (utilized since the 2007-2008 school year).
What are certified substitutes?
A “certified substitute” is a person who holds a valid Florida teaching certificate or is eligible for certification in an initial subject area. Certified subs are eligible for long-term placement up to one year and are paid at a higher rate of pay than regular substitutes. Service years as a certified substitute DO count toward FRS retirement accrual.
Why not cut School Board & Administrator salaries?
School board member and superintendent salaries are set by the State of Florida based on population. School board members and superintendents have no control over their salaries. Other administrative salaries are set at the local level. Marion County Public Schools has consistently ranked in the bottom five when it comes to administrative costs for Florida’s public school districts (currently #66 of 67).
What about raising more money?
In 2011, school board members could have levied a quarter-mill increase to the Required Local Effort; they chose not to do so. In 2012, voters could have approved a half-mill increase to pay for art and music teachers, along with media specialists; they chose not to do so. Voters could also have approved a half-mill increase for technology and maintenance of current schools; they chose not to do so. By law, sales tax dollars cannot be used for salaries.
Why are you building new schools if the budget’s so bad?
A half-cent sales tax approved by and collected from voters in 2005-2009 is paying for Legacy Elementary, which opens this August. Teaching positions in this year’s operating budget will transfer from overcrowded schools to Legacy. The sales tax also built Liberty Middle School, Marion Oaks Elementary, and Horizon Academy at Marion Oaks.
What happens to Class Size now?
Class ratios will increase so fewer positions will be necessary; however, the district expects to meet class size requirement on a school-wide average, which is now the State requirement.
How can teachers get a raise when new teachers are losing their jobs?
Full-time teachers are receiving a state-mandated pay raise (approximately $7 million in MCPS). How this money is disbursed requires negotiating and approval from the local teacher’s union.
Why not force Early Retirement on employees?
We cannot force but could offer an early retirement plan. However, this requires significant investment up-front (at least $1 million) for “buy out” of accrued days (sick, vacation, etc.). In 2009, over 100 employees accepted this option. Because offering early retirement requires considerable “up front” costs, it’s not a feasible option for the 2013-14 budget year.
Why are you cancelling Dual Enrollment classes?
We’re not! These classes will continue but at a yet-to-be-determined cost due to new state law. Districts are now required to pay a negotiated portion to colleges which partner on this program in addition to higher costs for textbooks.
What about a 4-day school week?
Though once considered, this is not a viable option now because of state funding. When FL DOE said it would cut transportation funding by 20%, this killed the four-day week proposal. Transportation costs for Marion County are huge and funded at less than 50 cents on today’s dollar. Additional cuts deflate the potential to make this major change worthwhile. As well, the community resounded loudly against the idea, citing disruption to parent work schedules. Finally, support personnel salaries for bus drivers, custodians, and food service workers would automatically be cut 20% with a four-day work week.
Why offer summer institutes and classes that pay teachers?
The cuts announced recently are for NEXT school year and summer programs NEXT year. Programs for this summer (2013) are in this year’s budget. As well, certain programs REQUIRE teacher training in order to receive program funding.
Why not eliminate free breakfast and lunch for students?
The Federal Lunch program reimburses the district for costs associated with free/reduced meals for breakfast and lunch. This program is self-sustaining and provides the healthiest and most nutritional meals of the day for many students. This funding cannot be used for any other purpose.
Why not just borrow from the “savings” account again?
This is no longer an option. The district borrowed $10 million from its reserve fund to balance this year’s budget. The district must maintain three percent minimum in reserves; falling below this threshold involves increasingly invasive measures by the state.
What else is the district considering?
Furlough Days – 1 furlough day district-wide = $1 million savings (approximately)
Salary cuts district-wide
Budget Suggestions Already Considered / Taken
X 4-day school week
√Reduce in-house custodians
√Outsource some custodial services
√Eliminate paraprofessionals (decreasing # each previous year)
√Mandatory daily computer shutdowns
√4-day summer work week
√Delay major purchases (technology, buses, etc.)
√Reduce energy use (and recycle)
√Freeze district department budgets
√Freeze open positions
√Reduce substitute teacher dollars at school level
√Cancel summer school (2014)
√Consolidated summer programs
√Borrowed $10 million from reserve fund to balance 2012-13 budget
√Eliminate 1st- and 2nd-grade standardized testing
√Eliminate courtesy busing
√Mandatory shut-down at Christmas Break and Spring Break
√Virtually eliminated overtime