Rock Hill teachers will take off two days without pay this school year to help the district manage a $1.9 million cut in state money.
The school board on Monday night ordered employee furloughs that also will force administrators to take four days off without pay.
Furloughs will save roughly $800,000, district leaders said. The remaining $1.1 million shortfall will come out of the school district's $19 million fund balance.
The figures are estimates at this point and might change by the time school officials calculate final expenses at the end of the school year, said associate superintendent Bill Mabry, who oversees finances.
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Despite Superintendent Lynn Moody's recommendation to avoid furloughs by relying entirely on reserves, the school board voted 4-1 for a combination of the two.
School board member Jim Vining, whose wife teaches in the Rock Hill school district, abstained from voting. Ann Reid was absent. Walter Brown, who favors taking the entire $1.9 million from reserves, voted against furloughs.
It's not fair to teachers who already spend a lot of their personal time working for free, Brown said.
“We're going to ask a teacher to take a furlough and go home and do your work,” Brown said. “We know they grade papers at home and prepare report cards at home.”
Now is the time to take advantage of lawmakers' decision to temporarily allow school districts to enact furloughs to manage state funding cuts, school board member Mildred Douglas said.
“We don't know whether it's going to be available next year,” she said.
For two weeks, school board members have weighed relying entirely on reserves and including furloughs to lessen the hit to the district's savings, also known as a fund balance.
The account is made up of money left over each fiscal year after a school district pays all expenses. Districts bank the annual overages, which help when unexpected costs or shortages crop up. Over the last decade, the Rock Hill school district's fund balance has grown to roughly $19 million.
The balances also help boost districts' credit scores. Credit rating agencies consider the size of reserves when they rate school districts. A large, consistent cushion tends to earn a higher rating. That gets districts better interest rates when they sell construction bonds.
The Rock Hill school district, which started the year about $2.3 million short, now expects to pull another $1.1 million out of reserves.
That's worrisome, said school board chairman Bob Norwood, who warned that the economy is likely to be grim for some time. Overreliance on the fund balance could whittle it to nothing and ruin the district's credit rating, he said.
“The long-term outlook of this situation is more dire in my mind than this here tonight,” he said.
The school board ended the meeting with a symbolic show of support, approving board member Jason Silverman's proposal to cut each member's $600 monthly stipend — $700 for the chairman — by an amount proportional to what employees will lose. Vining abstained from voting because he doesn't accept the stipend.
In other business, the school board:
Approved a reassignment policy that outlines when and how to shift students from their current schools. Not a lot will change about how reassignments are carried out, although Moody will prepare an annual report on schools' demographics and make recommendations about how to ensure meaningful diversity across the district. That could mean moving students.
Voted to try to sell the district's Annex Building at 507 E. Black Street for $200,000.