Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill school staff cuts discussed

For months, Fort Mill's top education official warned that the school district wasn't immune to the spiraling economy.

Monday night, Superintendent Keith Callicutt spoke informally of what might befall some Fort Mill School District employees in the wake of budget cuts.

"We're looking at the possibility of cutting 50-plus teaching positions in this district," Callicutt said at a school board meeting.

Other school-related jobs are also at risk, he said.

"Maintenance is going to be impacted," Callicutt said. "Transportation is going to be impacted. No area will be exempt. We've got to come up with additional cuts."

A budget plan set to be presented to the school board during its May18 work session could include a four-day furlough for teachers and an eight-day furlough for administrators, including Callicutt.

"We're looking at every angle to try to cover a shortfall of about $4.6 million," Callicutt said.

"That's not a formal recommendation, but a discussion I've had with the board," he said about the potential cuts.

Callicutt's announcement comes at a time when state-level education dollars are slim and no longer promised to local school districts. That puts jobs and people's lives in limbo, he said.

"We will be talking to persons who will be possibility impacted," Callicutt said. "We will begin talking tomorrow.

"Every area will be affected," Callicutt added. "Elementary, middle and high [schools] - all will be impacted. I understand that when you're talking about people's jobs, there are going to be concerns. There will be people who will be upset."

And that's the hard part, Jan Smiley, school board chairwoman, said.

"I hate having to make decisions that are going to affect staff and instruction," she said. "These are not easy choices. These are not easy conversations."

The district's current $68 million budget is compounded by the opening of two new schools," Leanne Lordo, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said.

"That proved to be quite a challenge for us," she said. "With the stimulus dollars we'd still have a shortfall."

Callicutt and Smiley contend cutting staff is the way to effect the most savings, but they were hoping to get good news from state lawmakers before having to put the option on the table.

"I want the community to know that we've asked for special legislation that would have given us assistance, but we've not received any official results yet," Callicutt said

"When you're $4.6 million short, we have to put everything on the table," Smiley said.