On Monday, the Springfield School Board unanimously approved an amendment to the 2019-2020 calendar. Beginning May 22, employees will have scheduled furlough days through July 31.
For students, that means the school year will now be four days shorter in order to implement the 11 furlough days. This also means students will have four-day weeks for the remainder of this school year. The last day of school was also rescheduled for June 10 instead of June 11.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school board anticipates an estimated $11.7 million budget shortfall to their general fund operating budget of approximately $122 million.
Last week, the Oregon Department of Education told Springfield Superintendent Todd Hamilton that the state anticipates an 8.5% funding reduction for this biennium. That is an estimated reduction of $656 million for Oregon K-12 schools.
“As part of that plan, we were reminded that an 8.5% reduction to the biennial budget feels more like a 17% reduction because the impact of a reduction will occur during the second year of the biennium,” said Hamilton.
By scheduling furlough days, the district aims to save $1.4 million, which will be applied to the 2020-2021 budget. According to the district’s website, a single furlough day will provide a net savings of roughly $420,000.
Hamilton said he wants to furlough and reduce costs this year so the district is better prepared for reductions next year.
“When we look at a school budget, 80% [or] 85% or more of a school district's budget is typically personnel costs,” said Hamilton. “So when we are looking to close a gap as big as $11.7 million, we're looking at [reducing] people or days.”
Chief Operations Officer Brett Yancy said if the school district did not approve the implementation of furlough days, the school district would have had to cut at least 10 positions in order to save the $1.4 million.
“If we focused on one area—so if we focused on just certified, this would be the equivalent of 15 certified staff members,” said Yancey. “If we focus solely on classified, educational assistants, it’d be equivalent to about 35 classified employees. And if you focus solely on administration, it'd be up to 10 administrative positions.”
Yancey said cuts could have been any combination of staff members from the provided example.
In order to save money, the district plans to delay the use of their Student Success Act funds—an annual $8 million from the state that district could have begun using for the 2020-2021 school year. During the pandemic, Springfield Public Schools has also implemented hiring and expenditure freezes, which Yancey believes will save about $3 million.
The district is also expecting funding from ODE’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which would provide an additional $2.5 million.
If you combine the money saved by the hiring and expenditure freezes, the emergency relief fund, and scheduled furlough days, the district plans to save about $7 million for next school year.
Most employees will be furloughed on Fridays. The district still plans to provide free childcare five days a week through the end of the school year, and school meals Mondays through Fridays through the end of the summer.
For staff members helping with those services, they will continue to work on Fridays and their scheduled furlough will take place on other days.
The Springfield district also applied for a state Work Share program. If approval, the district would have access to a federal funding program that will provide a weekly stipend for furloughed employees. Staff not eligible to participate in the Work Share program will not be required to reduce hours.