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School board votes to cut staff

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 27, 2019

NASHVILLE — The Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education voted Wednesday night to eliminate four positions within the district as part of an effort to pay back the coming year’s installment of the money the school district owes Nash County after the $800,000 bailout during the 2018-19 academic year.

School board member Chris Bissette was the lone opponent of the measure that will cut three data manager positions and one instructional support position that will come from the pool of guidance counselors, social workers or media personnel in the district. Another technology position also was slated to be cut, but Chief of Staff Brian Miller said someone recently had resigned from that department and accepted another position within the district, making the elimination of that position unnecessary.

“As Nash-Rocky Mount prepares for the 2019-20 budget, our finance division proactively prepared the budget $400,000 less — less funding from (the) county — and reconciled decreases from the state in average daily membership, position and dollar allotments,” Miller told the school board.

Miller said the school district is allowed to create a reduction in force under one of several different criteria and that two of these applied in this case: declining enrollment and financial exigency.

Enrollment has steadily been declining over the past 12 years, Miller said, and the decline affects the amount of funding the school district receives from the state. In the first month of the 2006-07 school year, attendance in the district was 18,154, more than 3,350 students greater than the first month of attendance in the 2018-19 school year, which was 14,800. Over the past two years, attendance has been dropping by about 250 students per year.

The financial exigency comes because the school district was forced to ask for an $800,000 advance from Nash County in order to balance the 2018-19 budget. To pay that back, the county’s funding to the school district will be reduced by $400,000 per year for the next two years.

Miller said his department had done all it could to minimize the effect on students. Miller also said that the staff originally was looking at cutting 34 positions but were able to reduce that number to four because of attrition and transfers to other positions.

“The superintendent charged us with ensuring the district has a balanced budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year with no effects to the learning environment and school building administration,” Miller said. “Through the transferring of positions to alternate funding sources, elimination of various vacant positions and restructure of job descriptions, we were able to ensure no effects to the learning environment and school building administration.”

The result of the cuts is that the current staff will have to take on more duties, Miller said.

School board member Evelyn Bulluck said that she hated to see the reductions made but felt it was a necessary step for the school district.

“Remember that we were at this point last October and we kicked the ball down the road and we ended up in a financial disaster,” Bulluck said. “I don’t see any other way to do it.”

School board chairman Franklin Lamm said he wanted to thank the staff for looking for ways to reduce the number of cuts needed.

“I am just glad this number is not 34,” he said.

School board member Doneva Chavis-Battle said she felt it was better to make the reductions now when people were more likely to be able to find other jobs rather than being asked to consider making reductions in October when families were counting on the income.

In a later interview, school board member Chris Bissette said he opposed the measure because he felt that not all options had been adequately explored and he feared that the positions that were being eliminated would affect students and their families.

“I am tired of making cuts to the instructional realm. If you want to cut, cut in the Central Office or in administration,” Bissette said. “I know we have made some cuts in that area, but I also know that there are people in the district who, because of transfers, are making more money than their pay grade calls for. The sooner we can do an evaluation of our staffing, the better. It can’t come quick enough for me.”

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