MNPS Considers Buyouts to Close Budget Gap Without Layoffs

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Metro Schools could save more than $2.1 million a year under a buyout plan to district employees with at least 30 years of service.

The savings would be the first step to help dig Metro Nashville Public Schools out of a budget hole that looks to be $23 million deep in the next school year — a problem the district officials have largely blamed on growing cost of local charter schools.

“Talking about early retirement incentives and opportunities for workforce reductions on a voluntary basis is a good start, but there’s lots of other things that we need to be doing as a board and an organization to look for additional cost savings and efficiencies. We’ll keep looking,” said Will Pinkston, chair of the school board’s Budget and Finance Committee which approved the proposal Tuesday night.

If approved by the full school board next week, MNPS staff taking the buyout would receive $700 for each year of service for a minimum of $21,000, plus a $500 incentive for teachers who give the district speedy notification.

The buyout would be open to 269 teachers, support staff and administrators, although the district predicts about 120 employees will take advantage of the program based on a similar 2004 buyout for staff with at least 35 years at MNPS.

Teachers would have to opt for the buyout by Feb. 28 next year, then retire June 30.

The incentive package, which mirrors a similar plan offered to Metro Government employees earlier this year, would cost the district an estimated $4.3 million out of its reserve account.

Details of the buyout are the first the district has publicly presented to shave down the budget. School district officials have also suggested consolidating schools under 70 percent capacity and increasing some classroom sizes at the lower grade levels, but hard numbers and proposals have yet to be publically presented to the school board for consideration

Director of Schools Jesse Register argues $2.1 million in savings is a lowball estimate because the district could choose not to fill some positions in the Central Office or other staff. The dollar figure assumes 122 people will take the buyout, and all the positions would be filled by new employees, which probably won’t be the case, he said.

“We’ve talked about reducing staff at the Central office or the teaching core or whatever,” said Register. “It gives us a 125 or 150 people there, so that we have those vacancies available and we’re not going to have to lay people off.”

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