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Rock Hill schools likely to lay off teachers

More teachers are likely on the chopping block if the Rock Hill school district is going to make up the final $1.4 million chunk of a massive budget shortfall, district leaders said Monday.

School officials are so desperate to find new revenue that a change to a longstanding policy might be on the table: naming rights at athletic facilities.

The district -- already moving forward with a plan that includes cutting 100 positions to cover a more than $10 million gap brought on by reductions in state funding -- had tried to leave classroom teachers unaffected.

But with the additional $1.4 million in cuts needed, district leaders say that doesn't seem possible anymore.

"We're probably going to have to cut classroom teachers," Superintendent Lynn Moody said during a school board workshop at the district office. "It's either go (to the) reserve (fund) or cut classroom teachers."

Board members begrudgingly agreed, saying that use of reserve money could pose a problem in the future if other cuts are needed.

"I don't see any choice," Chairman Bob Norwood said.

"It's the only place left to look," said board member Walter Brown.

Moody did say how many teaching positions would be cut or which grade levels or subjects might be targeted.

The $1.4 million in additional cuts is actually down from more than $3 million the district planned for several weeks ago when the state cut per-student spending even more than expected.

But pending state legislation, raising property taxes to the maximum allowed by law and doubling the cost per student to participate in sports should make up much of the difference, leaders said.

Still, more is needed, Moody said.

Apart from proposed staffing reductions, district administrators have prepared a list of cuts that includes reducing salaries, slashing spending on numerous programs and shifting the cost of some programs to families.

"We have been extremely conservative with this budget and we're still short," Moody said.

"At this point, I'm just not sure how to get us there."

Naming athletic facilities

One idea floated Monday to raise money: Change the district's policy governing naming rights at athletics facilities to allow them to be named after people or possibly businesses. Current district policy doesn't allow any school building or site to be named after anyone, living or dead.

The idea received mixed reviews from board members, but they said they were willing to study it.

"We're at a time now where we need to explore every opportunity to generate revenue," board member Ann Reid said.

Moody said she would give the board a plan that would allow any individual or family to having naming rights at ball fields, stadiums and other athletic sites. Specific rules and dollar amounts are still to be determined, she said.

Staff also might explore expanding naming opportunities to include media centers or other locations, Moody said.

"We'll go real liberal, then bring it back and let you start hacking," she said.