Decreasing the amount in savings will mean more teachers next year

The layoffs of about 20 Tigard-Tualatin School District employees are on hold for the next week, after a recommendation by the district's budget committee freed up more than $640,000.

Pink slips were meant to go out to staff members May 19, but on May 18 the Tigard-Tualatin budget committee recommended dropping the district's unappropriated fund balance from 5 percent of the general fund to 4 percent - a move that freed up an additional $641,755 to use next school year.

The district had planned to cut 61 staff positions next year, due to about $7.5 million in budget cuts.

Only about 20 of those cuts would result in layoffs, district officials said. The rest would be absorbed by regular retirements and other departures.

According to district spokeswoman Susan Stark Haydon, the additional $640,000 could save six teachers and 3.5 classified staff from receiving pink slips. Though it is not clear yet which specific teachers were saved from the cuts.

'When you add back, the staffing gets shuffled,' Stark Haydon said. 'It's not immediately apparent what positions are saved and what are laid off.'

Stark Haydon said she expects the final layoff numbers sometime next week.

'It would be perfect news if we could get down to nobody being laid off,' Stark Haydon said. 'But we aren't there yet.'

More layoffs averted by cutting days?

One way to help offset layoffs further is by cutting days from the school calendar.

The district budget committee has said it would prefer cutting days from next year's calendar as a way to soften the elimination of staff positions next year.

The committee formally made the recommendation for cutting days - also known as furlough days - on May 18. Every day cut from the calendar saves the district about $370,000.

'If you added the $660,000 to the budget, and take one furlough day that adds about $1 million dollars back to the budget,' Stark Haydon said.

Cutting days was not on the budget committee's agenda, but committee members decided to look at the issue anyway to offset layoffs.

'I hope that our people will come to our senses and not lay people off,' board member Barry Albertson told a crowd of about 100 people at the budget meeting earlier this month. 'This is a terrible time to get a job, and I don't want those folks to have to do it.'

The decision about furlough days can't be made unilaterally. The district will have to negotiate with all four of the district's employee groups - including the teachers' union - before cuts can be made.

According to Ernie Brown, the district's human resources director, the district has reached out to the four groups - which represent the district's administrators, classified staff, confidential managers and teachers union - who have all raised questions as to what days might be cut, how the money saved would be used and what cuts were being made at the district office.

The budget must be approved by the School Board before July 1. If negotiations with employee groups are reached after the July 1 deadline and the budget is in place, some or all of the laid off employees could be hired back.

According to Superintendent Rob Saxton, it would take cutting about four days from the calendar to save from losing staff. To save all 61 positions on the chopping block, Saxton said it could take cutting as many as a dozen furlough days.

Albertson said he would support cutting as many as 10 days from the calendar to save as many people as possible. Other school board members have said they would support cutting one or two days.

'Every day should be a value for our kids but (cutting) just a few could get some add-backs that are significant,' said Board Vice-Chairwoman Maureen Wolf last month.

School districts are budgeted on two-year cycles. Any cut days from the calendar in the 2011-12 school year would also need to be made in 2012-13.

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