The Baltimore school board is perusing a menu of budget-balancing proposals, including employee furloughs and 40 central office layoffs, to help bridge a $9 million deficit caused by a reduction in state aid.
Board members are not likely to decide until next week which of the proposed cuts they will implement. They said they want time to study the possible impact of the moves, which were outlined by school system budget officials.
The cuts, which are to take effect in December, also must be approved by Mayor Kurt Schmoke. The mayor is having all city agencies submit budget adjustments because of a $21 million cut in state aid to Baltimore. The state cut is a result of a $450 million state budget deficit.
"We are going to have to make some very drastic decisions if these cuts hold," said Joseph L. Smith, president of the Baltimore Board of School Commissioners.
School budget officials are proposing that each school employee be furloughed for three "non-school" days, a move that would reduce employee salaries but not teaching time for students. It also would save $3.9 million.
The system also is proposing deferring "sick leave conversions," a benefit which allows city employees to trade some of their sick days for cash. That is projected to save the system $2.1 million but must be approved by employee unions.
Board members also are considering abolishing an unspecified number of vacant positions that will allow the system to save $1.3 million. Many of those jobs would be in the system's physical plant division, which is responsible for school maintenance. The others are central office jobs.
Board members also are considering cutting $355,000 in curriculum development funds and $500,000 to defer development of criterion reference tests -- moves that some board members fear will cause the city to fall further behind state school performance mandates.
"These areas seem to be central to what we are trying to do," said board member Meldon S. Hollis Jr.
The board also is considering charging students 20 cents to ride MTA buses to school and curtailing staff travel, tuition reimbursement and equipment purchases. Those changes would save $1.35 million.
The cuts to the school budgets come in two areas. In one area, totaling $7.6 million, the school system has the flexibility to move money to absorb the cuts, while in the other area reductions are solely dictated by the state.
The state has yet to determine the city's share of all the cuts in the so-called restricted area, but the city fears that it may have to close as many as six of its 61 prekindergarten centers, affecting 240 children. The city also may have to double from 20 to 40 cents what it charges for "reduced price lunches."
In other business, school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey is speeding up plans to reorganize the school administration, and is hiring three consultants for $24,000 to help study the process.
Amprey, who has been on the job for a little more than two months, previously had outlined a plan to revamp the bureaucracy during the first half of next year.
Administrators not directly in inolved in classroom operations would have been touched by the plan in the first four months of the year. Those directly linked with instruction would have been affected only after the school year ends.
But, because of the state's current budget problems, "it appears that we need to accelerate this process," Amprey said yesterday.
"What we're talking about doing is making the bureaucracy more efficient and effective," Amprey said. That could take a variety of forms, with the possibilities ranging from the shift of staff from school department headquarters to "wiping out whole offices."
The three consultants identified by Amprey are Louis Richardson, retired deputy superintendent; Benjamin Whitten, retired associate superintendent for vocational education; and John Ward, retired associate superintendent for Baltimore County public schools.
Edmonia Yates, retired city deputy superintendent and currently a member of the state school board, will offer her services without compensation, Amprey said.
Amprey said the consultants will assist the internal reorganization study as well do their own independent evaluation.