Charleston County school board cuts 117 teaching jobs; saves $7.3 million

VIDEO: Charleston Co. school board cuts 117 teaching jobs; saves $7.3 million

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County School District voted Monday to eliminate 117 teaching positions across the district, marking the board's first significant round of budgets cuts for 2016-2017 school year.

The reduction would save approximately $7.3 million for the district. The budget constraints come after an $18 million deficit was reported by the C.C.S.D. last Sept.

Glenn Stiegman, Interim Chief Financial Officer for the district, said the board must ultimately trim $17 to $18 million from next year's budget.

The board approved the teaching staff cuts at a special meeting Monday. The cuts would be divided across 86 Charleston County schools. Elementary schools will lose 50 positions while Montessori schools will have 22 fewer teachers. Middle schools will reduce by ten and high school by 26 teaching positions.

According to district officials, some schools provide 4-yr-old classes with Art/Music/P.E. but that's not consistent across the all district schools. As a result, the board voted to approve cutting that programming for all 4-year-olds, which consists of nine jobs.

Stiegman said teacher turnover typically affects 400 positions each year; he doesn't expect layoffs to occur as a result of the new staffing allocations, but rather expects the 117 jobs will remain vacant. Teacher changes were also addressed first as contracts must be sent out mid-April for those positions.

Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait prefaced Monday's special meeting by announcing that there are no funds missing from the district.

"Here's our dilemma," Postlewait said, "it's important that folks understand. There's no money missing. We spent it on children, programs…we spent it when we didn't have it to spend."

The board passed a deficit budget for the past seven of eight years, according to Postlewait. However, the superintendent said that according to audit findings, it's believed that the board was not appropriately involved or given needed info to understand what was happening with the budget.

Postlewait also reported that cost-cutting the district has undertaken since last fall is estimated to save $5 million. Now the district must move towards zero-based budget for the next four years to increase the district's fund balance.

In addition to cutting $17 million from the budget, the superintendent said $4 million must be set aside every year for the next four years to rebuild the fund balance.

Meanwhile, the district continues to grow. District leaders project an additional 1,405 more students in 2016-17.

Stiegman and Postlewait affirmed that more than 80 positions will also be cut from district office staff.

The board will evaluate further budget cuts at future meetings. Affected departments and programs may include special education, principal and vice-principal staffing, athletics positions, literacy programs and magnet school staffing and magnet school transportation.

The elementary, middle and high school allocations committees also recommend closing "small, costly schools," according to committee reports. Such measures would be weighed by the board at future budget meetings.

"There are no sacred cows," Postlewait said. "We're looking at everything."

Copyright 2016 WCSC. All rights reserved.