Board members listened as the system’s attorney, Robin Andrews, explained the state’s reduction-in-force law a proposed revision to its own policy on the matter.
The law allows the school system to make sweeping cuts when revenue declines or enrollment falls significantly. The proposed policy provides more flexibility for the board by eliminating some procedures required in the existing policy.
Andrews added that the timing of the revision was not a sign of cuts to come, but rather a response to a recommendation by an outside agency.
“There is not anything anticipated right now as far as a reduction in force, but obviously everybody knows there are some school systems that (may) need to do that this year,” Andrews said of the proposed revision.
Teresa Noell, a local representative of the Alabama Education Association, said she is concerned that the proposed policy is too vague. She doesn’t like the way the policy defines “objective criteria,” which is what it states the board should use when determining when to declare a reduction in force and when and how to recall employees after such a declaration.
“I’m a little concerned about the policy that is being reviewed because it’s somewhat vague,” Noell said. “It’s just not as specific and detailed as their present policy.”
For now, officials in the Calhoun County system think a reduction in force will not be needed anytime soon. Employees in its system may be saved from the type of sweeping job losses that accompany a declaration of reduction in force because of the system’s current financial standing, officials said.
Superintendent Joe Dyar and Lesley Poe, the system’s chief financial officer, said the county’s 1 cent sales tax for schools, wise money management and a healthy reserve fund should keep the system afloat during the transition to the next fiscal year.
The system collects, on average, $6 million from the local sales tax. It is also more financially secure because of the way school officials spent stimulus money, Poe said. It spent what it could of the federal funds, about $2 million, on utilities, not teachers. That enabled the system to pay teachers using state funding, not federal dollars which will evaporate in fiscal year 2012.
“I’m not foreseeing that we’re going to have to resort to a reduction in force,” Poe said.
Noell agreed that Calhoun County’s reserve fund and the 1 cent sales tax are helping the system to be more financially independent, but she was less confident that the system would not face a reduction in force. If elected officials at the Statehouse approve current legislation to increase class sizes fewer teachers will be funded by state tax dollars. That would leave local systems to fund more teachers using local money, but systems are more likely to let those teachers go than they are to keep them Noell said.
“That should help, but what I would be fearful (that) somehow the people at the state level who are pushing to raise the divisors, if they were somehow able to do that, that would cost about 1,250 teaching jobs across the sate,” Noell said.
In other business, the board also elected to place employees in six positions that were recently vacated. The board chose to fill four more positions that were being temporally vacated for medical reasons.
Contact staff writer Laura Johnson 256-235-3544.