Tuesday, February 28, 2012

CMS budget cuts, shifts and adds

The early version of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' budget for next year has plenty of moving pieces, as always.

The 3 percent raises interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh proposed earlier remain.  But instead of the $25 million to $30 million he said he's need from Mecklenburg County commissioners,  he's seeking $18.6 million for a 2 percent bump,  with the remaining 1 percent coming from $7.5 million he can "redirect" from other parts of the budget.

Rising costs for 2,000 more CMS students and about 1,000 more Mecklenburg charter students (CMS must pass county money to those independent public schools) would bump the budget up by $13.1 million even without the raises,  the plan indicates. Hattabaugh and Chief Financial Officer Sheila Shirley also presented $4.7 million for new efforts.  An earlier $1 million plan to expand Communities In Schools was scaled back to $100,000;  CMS officials said the nonprofit dropout-prevention group will ask county commissioners to directly fund the expansion,  rather than having the money go through CMS.

Some of the cuts and shuffles include a $1.3 million reduction in central offices that eliminates 12 jobs and a $3.9 million reduction that Shirley said came from reducing the salary averages used in budgeting to match actual salaries.  Almost $3 million is freed up because a federal performance-pay pilot program expires next year;  this year CMS had to use $2.9 million in county money to match the federal grant.

Some teacher jobs will be eliminated,  but Hattabaugh said they're either one-year contracts or people who can almost certainly find jobs elsewhere.  That means no layoffs looming,  for the first spring since 2008.

Hattabaugh noted that other districts may be going through layoff trauma this year as federal stimulus money runs out.  He said CMS avoided that by spending most of the money on one-time improvements,  such as adding wireless internet access and fixing up schools,  rather than paying for jobs that would disappear when the short-term aid went away.

Hattabaugh may still revise the plan before it's formally presented March 13.  And board members can still make their own proposals.  One that's sure to be closely watched:  Hattabaugh is sticking with the four-tier  "bell schedule"  that saves money on busing but has left some families frustrated by late start and dismissal times.  Board members could override him,  but they'd have to find a way to offset about $600,000 in transportation savings.

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