UPDATE: Chesterfield schools surveys staff for budget cut options

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) – Grim news for Chesterfield County Public Schools. Next year's budget shortfall has deepened to about $50 million. Cuts are inevitable. The question now is how many jobs will be lost, and 8,000 Chesterfield school employees are now part of that process.

"It's going to have a direct impact not just on the education but on people's livelihoods," said Shawn Smith, Chesterfield County Public Schools.

A month ago, the school system was bracing for a $25 million hit to next school year's budget. Then came Governor Kaine's announcement. Remaining stimulus dollars were taken back. Now, county schools are out a whopping $50 million.

"Our employees have said time and time again, that they want to protect and preserve their jobs, so furloughs is a potential option," said Smith.

Plain and simple... It's a pay cut. Frank Cardella with the teacher's association wishes there were more options for his members who are now concerned for their future.

"To try and determine which employee is more valuable than which other employee, it creates a morale problem," Cardella said.

So Chesterfield County Public Schools is asking its staff to complete a survey that offers more than a dozen options for major budget cuts. The goal is for each employee to pick enough so the total is at least $40 million. Among the list increases to the student/teacher ratio, eliminating some secretaries, deans or guidance counselors, cutting back on bus routes or eliminating financial support for athletics.

"For the students, it's going to impact the courses they are able to take, we're able to provide," Smith said.

All employees will see cuts with either fewer benefits, payment into their retirement programs or furloughs. A majority of this list must be chosen to alleviate the multi-million dollar shortfall.

"Our school division is going to look very different. We're going to go back to days of 10 years past," he said.

Staff have until Friday to complete the survey. At the end of the month, the superintendent will present his budget to the school board. In February the board will finalize the budget. In March the board of supervisors will make the final vote.

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