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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What's next? Schools to lobby legislators and eye more cuts to keep teachers

Posted by on Tue, May 25, 2010 at 3:47 PM

School board member Steve Martin talks to the Board of County Commissioners during a budget work session Tuesday, May 25.
  • Jeremy M. Lange
  • School board member Steve Martin talks to the Board of County Commissioners during a budget work session Tuesday, May 25.

County Manager Mike Ruffin may have set some minds at ease last night when he proposed a budget that would restore 111 teaching jobs Durham Public Schools feared it would have to cut to balance its budget for the coming year.

But there are 126 remaining teachers who have been notified they'll be losing their jobs, and the school system still needs $6.9 million to keep them, school board members said in a meeting Tuesday morning, where they reviewed the schools budget with Durham County Commissioners.

Among their next steps, the Durham school board will continue to work with a budget committee comprising administrators, students, teachers, county commissioners, community members and accountants to keep looking to pool together as much money as possible.

The committee will meet at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Durham Public Schools Fuller Building at 511 Cleveland Street. The committee is still considering several reductions to make up that $6.9 million that would keep teachers on staff, including a 2 percent reduction in local supplements the county adds to the salaries of teachers, principals and some administrators, and the possibility of requiring teachers to take unpaid days off, or furloughs. (The school district is awaiting a decision by the state legislature that would give school districts the authority to furlough employees.)

Each day of furlough would save Durham schools $1 million, and a 2-percent supplement cut would generate another $1.2 million, said Steve Martin, a member of the school board.

Teachers, parents, community activists and others with the Umbrella Coalition, a newly formed group based out of Hillside High School, have also organized a "town hall"-style meeting from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at Hillside. State representatives H.M. "Mickey" Michaux and Paul Luebke have confirmed their attendance.

School board members also noted they are eagerly awaiting word from the state legislature as to whether state lottery funds collected in the new fiscal year (beginning July 1) could be used next year for school operations, including teacher salaries. Currently, schools may only use lottery funds for certain capital projects.

The commissioners' review of the schools' budget was largely a session during which DPS budget experts led the county officials through cuts and items that still outstanding because state funding for school districts is still in the works. Commissioners asked about the use of lottery funds, the efficiency of transportation and the use of federal stimulus funds.

Both commissioners Michael Page and Becky Heron emphasized that the most severe cuts were coming down to districts from the state level and the county was left with the tab.

"We did not create this problem," Heron said. "The state created this problem. The state should take care of this problem. The state has ways to raise money. We can’t put a tax on beer and liquor, but the state can."

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