Schools will avoid layoffs, for now Officials are seeking to trim $32 million

job losses remain possible

November 01, 1995|By Jean Thompson and Mike Bowler | Jean Thompson and Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

Layoffs will be avoided for now, but may be needed by the end of the year as Baltimore school officials continue to search for millions in savings to balance the budget, Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said yesterday.

School officials hope to trim spending instead of jobs at this time, he said, adding, "We still have another round to go before the end of the year."

"It would be a horrible Christmas present if we had to announce it then, but we would do everything we could to postpone the effects until after the holiday season," he said.

City and school finance officers have been looking for $32 million in savings this school year to cut the district's expenses to the budgeted level of $647 million.

Dr. Amprey has asked department managers to find about $18 million by cutting their operating budgets. The school system also is seeking $10 million in a proposed contract reduction for Education Alternatives Inc., which manages nine schools and consults at three others.

One recent budget proposal would have eliminated up to 70 jobs this month, but Dr. Amprey postponed action to consider alternatives suggested by administrators and unions. Most of the affected positions were held by administrators and their support staffs.

"We looked at the professional staff and decided we didn't know how the jobs could be done without those employees," Dr. Amprey said yesterday. "As of now, no employee will be laid off."

Administrators whittled the number of affected positions until only 13 remained, all represented by City Union of Baltimore, he said. CUB's members in the school system are secretaries and clerical workers. Administrators "decided that we wouldn't save

that much by laying them off," Dr. Amprey added.

"I would say it is a blessing this time, if no one is laid off before Thanksgiving and Christmas," said Chester D. Wilton, president of CUB. "Dr. Amprey should be looking closely at cutting more individuals at the top echelon rather than the school secretaries and office assistants."

Although schools will be affected indirectly by cutting spending on operations, he added, administrators have upheld their pledge to avoid targeting the separate budgets managed by the schools.

About 76 percent of Baltimore schools' total budget for this school year is made up of salaries and benefits. The remainder, roughly $155 million, pays for equipment, supplies and contracts with vendors, such as high school cafeteria services supplied by Aramark.

Furloughs for employees at all levels remain an option, he said. In an "open letter" explaining the budget shortfall to school employees last week, Dr. Amprey said that lost days of paid work "appear to be an unavoidable measure" but the loss may be limited to salary. Officials also are looking for ways to return the pay to employees at a future date, he wrote.

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