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CMS prepares for even more budget cuts

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is looking at the possibility of laying off more than 1,200 workers. The district now is bracing for a potential loss of $85 million to $100 million next school year. Yesterday, CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman submitted to the school board three options to cut from the budget. The worst case scenario is based on a possible 10 percent cut from the county and a seven percent cut from the state. It also reflects about $16 million less in capital funding. Personnel-related expenses make up 85 percent of the budget. And Gorman says the bottom line is that staff will bear the brunt of the trimming. "You can only do things without doing personnel to a certain level but then you're caught. You're just stuck, then you've done reductions to such a substantive level that all you've really got left in options are personnel," he says. The district says a budget cut in the 10 percent range would mean laying off 1,200 or more employees. Board member Trent Merchant said at yesterday's work session that it's time to seriously look at other options for personnel. He suggested that staff take a pay cut. "I think that's a viable option there. There are a number of people in the private sector, in a number of small companies who are choosing to cut their own pay so they won't have to cut their colleague out," said Merchant. CMS legal counsel is looking at the implications of an across the board pay cut. Some workers have contracts, while others are certified teachers. Mary McCray heads the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators. She was at the meeting and says teachers shouldn't have to shoulder the majority of a pay cut. McCray pointed to central office staff who work all year round. "If there's going to be a reduction in pay, it needs to be there also. Not just on your certified staff and your administrators backs. And definitely should be a lesser degree for those people who are not certified- are classified employees," she said. Gorman also raised the possibility of furloughs. He said an unpaid day off for workers with year-round positions would save about $750,000. He said if all employees were to take one unpaid day off it would amount to $3.6 million. The school board will have one more budget work session. Gorman will then present a formal budget to the board on March 10th.