Another Neighbor…..

Lexington 1 mulls job cuts, more

Move would counter cuts in state aid

Lexington 1 officials are looking at eliminating up to 84 jobs – mostly teachers – and other classroom cutbacks in the fall to counter declining state school aid.

Leaders of the fast-growing area – home to some of South Carolina’s best schools -decried the reductions proposed Tuesday but agreed cuts appear inevitable.

An expected decline of $16 million in state aid is forcing “unconscionable” changes, superintendent Karen Woodward told school board members.

Her recommendations include:

– Laying off 66 to 84 of 3,300 employees. About three-fourths of those cuts would be from the ranks of 1,700 teachers.

– Allowing no pay raises and giving furloughs of up to four days for most employees

– Increasing average classroom size by two or three pupils

– Ending instruction in foreign language in second grade, band in fifth grade and middle school sports teams

– Closing Lexington Intermediate a year early, possibly converting it into a center for adult learning and community use

– Using $5 million in savings to avert further cuts

The plan is the “least damaging” to two dozen schools in Gilbert, Lexington, Oak Grove, Pelion and Red Bank attended by 22,000 students, Woodward said.

A final count on job cuts depends on whether board members raise taxes on businesses. The maximum allowed by a state tax cap is nearly $54 per $100,000 of property.

Normal turnover means about 20 employees whose jobs are slated to end could be retained, officials said.

Board members called the cuts shocking but say they may have little choice as state aid falls in a sluggish economy with high joblessness.

The plan offers “hard, hard decisions,” Bert Dooley of Lexington said. “I don’t like any of them.”

Other board members said academic performance will suffer.

“I don’t want to get to the point in Lexington 1 where our mission statement is we’re just open for business,” Edwin Harmon of Lexington said.

Board members must settle on a spending plan for the upcoming school year by June 30.

Lexington 1 officials relied heavily on federal stimulus aid to keep two dozen teachers a year ago and add 10 more instead of laying them off as neighboring schools did.

The move came amid hope the economy would improve, but it didn’t.

Now “there are no good options,” Woodward said. “Unacceptable as they may be, we may have to make these decisions.”

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