City school board seeks public's input on deficit

Layoffs, furloughs among proposals

January 06, 2003|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Board of Education will offer the public an opportunity tomorrow night to suggest remedies to reduce the school system's multimillion-dollar deficit, which has resulted in the layoff of hundreds of employees.

The board will hold a public forum from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the school district's headquarters, 200 E. North Ave., to hear recommendations from parents and community members about what actions the system should take to trim a budget deficit that could reach $30 million if left unchecked.

At a school board meeting Dec. 17, Chief Operating Officer Mark D. Smolarz proposed that the system lay off 250 full-time staff members and force 360 nonunion employees to take three-day unpaid furloughs, among other actions. More than 200 temporary workers have been laid off.

"This hearing is intended to provide an opportunity for the school community to respond to what they heard [at the Dec. 17 meeting] and to share their ideas on steps the school system can take to improve its fiscal situation," said school system spokeswoman Vanessa L. Pyatt.

Those who want to speak should sign up no later than 5:15 p.m. tomorrow. Sign-up sheets will be available in the headquarters' lobby beginning at 4 p.m., Pyatt said.

At the Dec. 17 meeting, Smolaz suggested a number of fixes to help ease the deficit, including:

Laying off 250 people, which he estimated would save $3.4 million this year and $13.5 million in the next fiscal year.

Furloughing about 360 nonunion employees, which he estimated would save $400,000. Smolarz also proposed an additional three-day furlough next year.

Renegotiating contracts with outside vendors, which he said would save $3 million this year and $6 million next year.

Making business practices more efficient, such as centralizing all printing done in the school system, for an estimated savings of $1 million.

Smolarz said the total savings from measures suggested by the district administration would be $15.4 million, about half of what would be needed to end the year with a balanced budget. Added to a $19 million deficit from the previous year, the system would finish this fiscal year, which ends June 30, with a $34.4 million deficit, he said.

Smolarz said the system would realize more cost savings in the next school year, and could erase all of that $34.4 million shortfall by July 2004.

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