New Budget Cuts Will Result in Faculty Reductions

COVID-19’s impact on an already tight budget will soon cause faculty numbers to decrease across the district

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Avery Ott

A teacher’s desk sits empty. Schools will soon face the loss of faculty members due to new budget cuts.

The future for many FHSD faculty members remains uncertain as new budget cuts will result in the reduction of staffing across all schools. For the past 10 years, the district has been dealing with issues in regards to the budget, revenues weren’t moving as fast as expenditures.  To mitigate these issues the district had tried to pass three tax levy hikes in the past 10 years, and a tax levy hike would raise the tax rate, which has to be approved by the community. All three times it didn’t pass. 

In addition to a tax levy hike, they also needed a bond issue, which provides the funding needed for buildings, fixtures, and equipment. A bond issue was run and passed, which is allowing for the rebuild of Francis Howell North and a new parking lot and heating and cooling system for our school. It was the district’s hope that they could run a tax levy hike in the next couple of years and have it be successful until COVID-19 hit the community. 

The district relies on three main revenue streams, local property tax, state funding formula, and local sales tax. Due to COVID-19 local sales tax plummeted, and the state funding formula got reduced as well, causing the district’s revenue to decrease. This all amounted to a strain on the budget. Dr. Sonny Arnel explained that the only way to save the money needed to keep their expenditures and revenue in a safe place is to start making faculty cuts. 

“About 80 percent of our budget goes to teachers, staff, administration… for us to cut enough of that 20% budget would be like getting rid of the buses, you can’t do that,” Dr. Arnel said. “It’s an unfortunate situation where we have to examine and reduce the number of our faculty.” 

The school board is voting on the finalization of the staffing plan on Feb. 4. There are plans to reduce the number of faculty in all three high schools, and after reductions, there would be a 1:25 teacher-student ratio. In other words, schools are going to have to make cuts until they hit that ratio. Central’s student body has been gradually decreasing over the years, but faculty hasn’t been cut in a number of said years. This could result in a greater amount of cuts coming from Central in order to meet that specified ratio. With this decrease in faculty, some of the less popular classes students try to enroll in might not be able to run.

“Let’s say, 13 students out of the whole school sign up for a class, then I have to make a decision, do I run that class with 13 kids, or do I run our English freshman classes a little lower, where do I put the staffing?” Dr. Arnel said. “Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t, and as a result, I have to eliminate a class if it’s only offered one time.”

Cuts will be based on seniority, but some teachers may take this as their sign to retire instead, thus saving one of the younger teachers in their department. Dr. Arnel commends any faculty member who may be considering this.

“Will teachers think about that and choose that? Possibly,” he said. “That’s very admirable but doesn’t mean they have to, nor do I want them to… but we may have people make those conversations and personal decisions… how much that will make way in their decision is really individual.” 

As for those faculty members who are reduced, they will go on a “parking lot” as Dr. Arnel called it. It simply means they will no longer be assigned to Central, and are either reduced by half or all of their classes. On March 5, the HR department will work to see what openings are available in the district that matches their qualifications. 

“Our best hope is that people will have a position in our district,” Dr. Arnel said. 

Should HR not find a position for someone left out on the parking lot they will, unfortunately, have to search for a position elsewhere. 

“We hire really great people, we take a lot of pride in who we hire because I think that’s the most important thing we do is putting awesome people in front of [the students],” Dr. Arnel said. “And the hope is that maybe they’ll be able to return.”