Chapel Hill: Opinion

July 15, 2014

Jamezetta Bedford: Get the facts on school budget cuts

One of the most difficult tasks for any school board member is to authorize budget cuts.

One of the most difficult tasks for any school board member is to authorize budget cuts.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools was fortunate to enter the recent recession with a healthy fund balance, which we strategically used to protect our programs and people while state funding dropped drastically.

Unfortunately, that well has dried up, and we are faced this year with having to make heartbreaking decisions.

In recent years, we have streamlined procedures and efficiencies, shrunk our central office and reduced spending – but always with the goal of protecting the quality of our classroom instruction.

Without the support of the Orange County Board of Commissioners and our entire community things would be much worse.

Unfortunately, more cuts are needed this year.

To that end, I want to take a minute to address misinformation that is circulating regarding a potential cut to our custodial staff. I would ask all readers to please examine the following facts:

• Due to state reductions, we anticipate needing to make at least $850,000 in budget reductions. Our initial list of reductions includes cuts to central office, gifted specialists and teacher positions.
• Changes to our custodial services are included on a second tier of reductions, which includes additional cuts of teacher positions and support positions.
• Eleven of our 19 schools are cleaned by district employees during the day and contractors in the evening. 
• The other eight schools are staffed completely with district employees. These schools rely on part-time employees to do routine cleaning in the evening.
• Most of our part-time custodial employees have full-time jobs elsewhere.
• The district does not have substitute custodians for evening employees. However, the schools with contractors are always covered.
• In the eight schools that are not currently contracted, we are considering the elimination of 15 part-time positions. It is important to note this is in a second round of cuts – only if more cuts are needed after central office salaries, gifted education teachers and others.
• Three of the eight district-staffed schools would be changed to district employees during the day, utilizing the custodial service in the evening. Some full-time employees would be reassigned into the remaining five schools. 
• We would request that part-time employees be offered employment with the contractor.
• As district employees retire or resign, we would transition the remaining schools to the custodial service over time.
• The district is committed to raising the salaries of all classified employees, including custodians. In fact, the administration recently presented the results of a commissioned study that would assist with the increase. 
• This custodial transition would result in a budget savings of approximately $125,000 in 2014-15. Once the transition is complete, the district would save approximately $275,000 per year.

Thank you for considering all the facts, and for your continued support of our schools.

Jamezetta Bedford is the chairwoman of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.

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