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School Employees Will See Furloughs In Next Two Years

School Board members (from left) Dr. Steve Edwards, Taylor Trusty, Casey Washington, Pierce Epes, and Board President Lamar Burgess listen as Superintendent Sammy Higdon (back to camera) explains the provisions of House Bill 1170. – Photo by Jack Gurner

By Jack Gurner

WATER VALLEY – School District personnel will be furloughed for up to three days for each of the next two years under a plan approved by the School Board Monday night.

“Those three-day furloughs would save the District $80,000…$160,000 over two years,” Superintendent Sammy Higdon explained as he presented the provisions of a recent State Education Bill.

House Bill 1170 allows school districts to furlough instructional, non-instructional and administrative employees including the Superintendent as part of budget cuts for the next two school years.

The Bill requires Districts having an ending fund balance in their maintenance fund equal to less than seven percent of the total revenue deposited into the fund during that fiscal year to submit a plan for budget cuts to the State Department of Education.

Higdon said that the Water Valley District would be one of many across the state with less than seven percent ending balance. He suggested that the board adopt the plan with additional language that states: “Those whose days have been previously reduced by the Board of Trustees will not lose any additional days.”

Another way to save money would be to cut teaching supplements, Higdon said. However, he did not recommend that the Board consider making those cuts at this time.

Additionally, School Districts will be able to reduce salaries by an amount equal to that cut by State Government if and when those cuts are made.

“Taking money from all these people the last two years was the hardest thing I have ever done in my career,” Higdon said. Now, I am going to turn around and take three more days from them. And then, if I was here, I would have to look real closely at cutting five percent.”

“Those are the times we’re in,” he continued, “and it is our responsibility to survive it as a School District.”

He also made Board members aware that the school employee’s contribution to the PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) would be going up by 1.75 percent as of July 1. Currently employees contribute 7.25 percent of their compensation.

In other actions at the May 3 meeting, the School Board:

• Took under advisement until the next board meeting the handbooks for classified personnel and the faculty/staff.

Superintendent Higdon said there were only two additions that were made to the handbooks for the next school year. One was to add the RIF (reduction in force) policy and the other was to add a policy on taking days off from school.

“If you exhaust all of your sick and personal days, it will cost you a day’s salary to be out,” Higdon explained. “It saved one district in southern Mississippi $40,000 on substitutes.”

• Entered executive session to discuss personnel recommendations for the 2010-2011 school year and the Superintendent search.

Board members scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday morning, May 5, to discuss further developments in the search. When hired, the new superintendent will start at the beginning of the 2010-11 school year on July 1.

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