- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) The city school board has voted to furlough the system's 12,000 employees, most from two to four days, to balance the district's budget. Without the belt-tightening, the district will finish the current fiscal year with a $31 million deficit.
The furloughs, which would save more than $6 million, must still be approved by unions representing school employees. Without the furloughs, schools chief Carmen V. Russo said the system would have to lay off about 250 workers beginning March 1.
Already 268 employees have been laid off, and spending for many items and services has been curtailed.
"We know this is very, very serious," Miss Russo said. "We know where the deficit occurred. We have a plan. But all these kinds of plans are very difficult and very painful."
"If they try to impose a furlough without some real negotiations, we are going to be in court," said Baltimore Teachers Union Vice President Brian Dale.
Tuesday night, Ms. Russo and Chief Operating Officer Mark Smolarz presented the board with their recommendations to handle the district's immediate fiscal crisis and the 2003-04 budget.
Some administration suggestions to make sure next year's budget doesn't go deep in the red would affect the district's classrooms, such as an increase in average class size in some grades and trimming the system's summer school program.
Miss Russo and Mr. Smolarz warned that without furloughs, the district might have to resort to layoffs. Those layoffs could include about 50 academic coaches, who are represented by the teachers union, and central office staff.
"We are not proposing any major layoffs for the remainder of the fiscal year," Mr. Smolarz told the school board Tuesday night, "unless we cannot negotiate any furloughs."
Under Miss Russo's plan, all school system employees would be furloughed for two days while employees who earn more than $60,000 a year would be off for three days.
Directors and officers would be furloughed for a total of four days and the three top administrators Miss Russo, Mr. Smolarz and chief academic officer Cassandra Jones would lose five days' pay.
The furloughs which would not interfere with student class time would produce a savings of $6.8 million.
"We are held accountable for everything we do," said L'Tanya L. Ervin, a first-grade teacher at Charles Carroll Barrister Elementary School. "Don't take our checks."

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