FORT MILL — Fort Mill school officials are looking at how much money the district could save by forcing employees to take unpaid leave.
"We talked about furloughs," said Fort Mill schools superintendent Keith Callicutt, "but only within the context of what other districts are talking about across the state.
"Our goal and our desire is that we don't have to do that. But I can't guarantee that. Nobody can."
Districts don't have the authority to furlough teachers, but a bill circulating among state House committees would give them temporary freedom from rules.
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Under the bill, districts could furlough teachers for up to five days, skip some testing and increase class sizes. One caveat is that teachers could be off only on days when students aren't in school, such as teacher work days.
The legislation, which S.C. schools superintendent Jim Rex has urged lawmakers to pass, is intended to give educators flexibility in coping with millions of dollars in lost revenue.
York County's districts say they expect to manage this school year's series of cuts without significant effect on classrooms.
But next school year is worrisome, school officials said
"The state has told us we can only expect next year what we got this year from the state," Fort Mill school board member Patrick White said.
The district already expects the number of students per classroom will swell.
"We admit that hiring the number of teachers we'd normally hire won't happen, so we are going to have larger class sizes," Callicutt said. "If we cut staff, the class sizes will get even bigger."
Rock Hill school officials have yet to look at how much money could be saved by forcing teachers to take unpaid leave, Superintendent Lynn Moody said.
"We're not seriously looking at furloughs," she said. "I'm still hopeful."
But "I will tell you that everything is still on the table. We're just kind of wanting to wait and watch."
At a Fort Mill school board meeting last month, Assistant Superintendent Leanne Lordo told the crowd that a one-day furlough for the all 1,019 employees, excluding bus drivers, would save $257,226. Five days could save roughly $1.2 million.
"When personnel costs are 87 percent, and fixed costs like lights and utilities are about 8 percent, you get to the point where most of the budget is fixed before you start," White said. "There's not a lot of areas to trim without affecting the quality of education."
Lordo is compiling a list of district spending that excludes employee salaries. She is scheduled to discuss it at a public school board meeting on Feb. 23.