Birmingham City Schools consider drastic plans for proration

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham City Schools are considering a plan to freeze employee salaries and potentially lay off some support staff if proration for the next budget year is as severe as some forecast.

The next budget year hasn't even started yet, but Birmingham City Schools are already preparing for proration of 6-10% that could cut $9-$15 million dollars from the system's budget. The system's CFO says he's trying to cut supplies, travel and other expenses to the bone, but he's not sure that's enough to make up the difference, and he submitted a recommendation to freeze the salaries of every employee.

"It's going to be challenging," Birmingham City Schools CFO Arthur Watts said. "First we must recognize that 80-85% of our total costs are salaries and benefits. We've already cut many items to the bare bones. We'll just have to take it day by day and look at our budget very thoroughly."

"We thought this as a premature move," Birmingham Education Association representative Lance Hyche said. "It's absolutely important they look at cost savings in other areas first and leave employees alone, leave the classroom and paychecks alone."

Superintendent Barbara Allen pulled the recommendation from the board's agenda before Wednesday's meeting in part because the school board isn't sure such a move would be legal.

School Board President April Williams said everything including salary freezes even layoffs of support staff are on the table. "To make that off the cuff determination without all the information is unfair," Williams said. "But I would just ask that we look at it in its entirety and make the best decisions. But I want the classroom affected the least."

"We'll meet with them and encourage them no to consider this and if the board does, we'll try to kill it," Hyche said.

The new budget year doesn't even begin until October and it could be a while before it's known whether Governor Riley is going to declare proration and if so, how much. But ideas about what to cut and by how much may come up as early as next week when the board begins to draw up next year's plan.