Citing concerns about possible cuts in state aid next fiscal year, Superintendent R. Edward Shilling announced that school officials willhire temporary employees to fill vacant posts.
"We don't want to get ourselves in a position for drastic cuts" to existing staff, Shilling told school board members Wednesday.
What worries Shilling and other school officials is a projected $700 million state budget deficit for fiscal 1993.
As a result of this fiscal year's budget crunch, the school system absorbed a $1.6 million reduction in its $107 million budget. The loss represented a reduction in state aid to the county and the loss of state contributions to teacher Social Security and retirement programs.
Educators are worried the state may not only reduce aid to counties because of a possible crunch next fiscal year but also pass the cost of retirementand Social Security contributions on to local school systems. For Carroll, that would mean about a $13 million tab.
"There's no way wecan absorb that without cuts," said board member Joseph D. Mish Jr.
Educators are looking at a no-growth budget for fiscal 1993, whichbegins July 1.
Shilling said vacant professional and classified positions will be tracked on a monthly basis. School principals, subject supervisors and directors will determine whether a position "absolutely has to be filled," the superintendent said.
If so, school officials will conduct interviews and offer a temporary contract, set to expire June 30, 1992, to a qualified candidate. However, long-term contracts may be offered to "outstanding candidates" who may not be available next year, he said.
In a report given to the board last week, 11.5 professional positions and 28.4 classified positions, such as bus drivers and custodians, were listed as vacant.
However, William R. Rooney, director of personnel, said some of the positions have been filled and others, such as principal posts at Friendship Valley Elementary School, expected to open next fall, have been put on hold.
Shilling said he didn't know how many temporary employees wouldbe hired.
He said the system can't afford to lose ground on its ratio of instructional staff to students. Its instructional staff ratio is 57.4 per 1,000 students, ranking Carroll 22nd in the state. The state average is 61.2.
"We're trying to make sure that if this thing (the budget crunch) really gets as bad as we believe it could potentially be, we will not lose permanent employees," Shilling said. "It's long-term planning. We want to be able to live with whatever comesout of the legislature."
Board vice president Cheryl A. McFalls called the move a wise one.
"I think it was a good move on Mr. Shilling's part," she said. "Mr. Shilling always seems to have a vision for the future. I know his concern is that if we have to look at reductions in staff next year, those temporary positions would be the onesthat could easily be reduced."
There is a cost savings involved in hiring temporary employees. Those employees will not receive benefits, and, in some cases, may be hired at lower pay scales.
Althoughthe budget crunch made hiring temporary employees necessary, Mish expressed some reservations "that temporary people may not be as well qualified as certified people."
"I hope we pursue the best people we can," he said.
Liberty High School Principal Robert Bastress supported the move, noting that filling vacant positions with temporary employees could mean protecting existing jobs "if cuts come down the road in fiscal 1993."