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Charlotte Area

CMS seeks pay cuts through furloughs, not salary reductions

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools board decided not to implement across-the-board salary reductions next year. Instead, they're hoping to convince state lawmakers to allow the district to furlough teachers. The school board wants the option to furlough employees for two days next year. The district could cut salaries, but even small reductions would mean hundreds of employees would make less than the state-mandated minimum wage for their positions. At a budget session yesterday board members agreed that furloughs were a better way to go. School board member Rhonda Lennon says she's been bombarded by calls from staff members who worry their salaries will be cut. "We are going to push excellent, effective teachers, which is what we want for our kids, out of their careers in teaching to find a livable wage for their families if we do this," said Lennon. Mecklenburg County and the state have told CMS to prepare for up to $74 million in cuts. The CMS board has already authorized the district to lay off 600 teachers next year. But school budgeters are still looking for another $7 million in savings. School board member Trent Merchant worries furloughs will be a long shot. "We're $6.9 million away from our target and we get within $1.2 million on a hope that furlough happens even though it's not being discussed in the legislature and it's not being discussed in the Governor's office. So I guess what I want to know is 'what else because we're not there,' said Merchant. Superintendent Peter Gorman told board members he will offer them other cost-cutting options in two weeks. The board also decided not to delay the opening of the new Rocky River high and Hough high next year to save money.