REJECTED: State says no to Montgomery schools' proposed budget cuts

(Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)
(Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)
Updated: Dec. 20, 2017 at 6:07 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery County Board of Education presented its budget selection to interim State Superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson on Monday, which he has since rejected.

Last Thursday, four board members voted to choose one of four budget options it created with Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Reginald Eggleston that includes provisions to cut 114 certified employees and 30 classified employees.

According to board members, Richardson was opposed to cutting so many teachers from a system that already suffers from a shortage of teaching staff. District 7 Board Member Arica Watkins-Smith said Richardson also explained a need for a concrete plan for where the money MPS will save from cutting positions will go.

"Anytime you're looking at adjusting a budget you want to make sure the money you're saving goes to student achievement," Watkins-Smith said.

Watkins-Smith was the only board member who did not vote for a budget on Thursday, stating that she did not have enough information. She said board members had asked for the option to look at system-wide furloughs for employees to give them time to make changes.

"We would rather people lose time than their jobs," Watkin-Smith said. "What we received on Thursday were just furlough options at the administrative level."

Watkins-Smith also said the number of certified employees that would need to be cut was different than the number the board received at its work session prior to the vote. During that meeting, the board was only to consider cutting 101 certified employees. She said there was no explanation given for why that number changed.

Durden Dean, who represents District 2, was also not surprised that Richardson did not approve of the budget the board voted on. He said it was the first time Richardson, himself, saw all four options. Despite voting for the budget that the board presented, Dean said no members of the board wanted to let go teachers.

"No one wanted to see that happen," Dean said. "We just wanted to do what would have the least negative impact on employees."

Based on the four options board members had, they either had to cut about 144 certified and classified employees or cut or outsource about 750 contracted employees, without a guarantee that they would be able to find work.

After serving on the board for five years, Dean said he has never seen MPS in such a critical financial situation. He said MPS would not be in its current state if it received more local funding.

"We're at the bottom of the barrel in terms of local funding for education," Dean said. "It won't get better until locally funding public education becomes a priority."

For now, the board will wait until Richardson gives a final decision for the budget. Board members said he promised them that decision by early January.

Last Thursday, CFO Jason Taylor said any cuts made in the budget would take place "relatively immediately".

Board members said Richardson planned to take a closer look at making cuts to the central office, as opposed to impacting so many teachers. Central office cuts were discussed as a separate matter from staffing cuts. Board members said central office cuts will occur in multiple rounds with the first round coming in early January.

Dean said the board is also waiting on a facilities study to see where MPS can make building cuts. He said they will receive that study by the end of the school year, so closings can occur before the start of the next school year.

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