Facing a looming budget deficit of at least $7 million, Knox County Schools' Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre is outlining a number of drastic cuts.
In a memo to the Board of Education, McIntyre said outsourcing custodial services, closing small schools, and adjusting school start times are areas in which significant savings could be realized. He also said adjustments to high school staffing levels and re-evaluating the policies for community use of school facilities would help eliminate the deficit.
"None of the areas analyzed present options that are without significant impact on one or more segments of our population, and most of the options in each analysis would require changes not just in operations but to what may be seen as a philosophy of support or service," McIntyre wrote.
The district utilized $7 million in federal funds that are no longer available to balance their current budget.
"The education jobs bill gave us about 7 million dollars to preserve teacher positions in our schools and we utilized those resources for that purpose, but we recognize that those dollars are going away at the end of this school year," McIntyre said.
Currently, custodial services are projected to cost $11.2 million. A bid submitted earlier this year by Knoxville based Service Solutions would yield $2.3 million in savings if all custodial services were outsourced. Retaining one custodian to oversee work at each school would save $939,000 annually, based on a second bid by Service Solutions. The company has also agreed to employ current custodial staff and offer comparable benefits.
McIntyre plans to have a recommendation for the Board of Education to consider at their November meeting, and said the Maintenance Department recommends implementing the changes in early January, if the board adopts an outsourcing plan.
Schools listed for possible consolidation include Gap Creek Elementary, South Knoxville Elementary, Maynard Elementary, Corryton Elementary, and Vine Middle Magnet. Students and teachers would be moved to a receiving school in the current school zone.
Savings would be realized by reducing operational costs, including administrative positions, custodial support, and utilities expenses. McIntyre said nearly every teaching position at a small school would have to move to a receiving school.
However, savings would not be realized in each case.
"When you look at the analysis that we did for Gap Creek Elementary School, it shows that geographically it's somewhat isolated, and the nearest school is New Hopewell Elementary School, which is basically at capacity and wouldn't be able to accommodate those students," McIntyre said.
Additionally, adjusting school start times could yield savings of up to $700,000 in transportation costs. Adjusting high school staffing levels based on a "modified" block schedule would garner savings as well, McIntyre said, and reductions could be addressed through attrition.
The Board of Education will discuss McIntyre's proposals at their mid-month work session Tuesday, October 18th.
McIntyre will host a community forum to discuss the proposals at Fulton High School on Thursday, October 27th at 6:00 p.m.