AP NEWS

Cabell Schools to transfer or cut 128

March 24, 2019
Hardesty

WORKFORCE REDUCTION

HUNTINGTON — What’s become an unpleasant annual occurrence in restructuring school districts to account for coming budget shortfalls has happened again in Cabell County as 128 professional and service employees received reduction-in-force or transfer notices. Reduction-in-force policy is common in many workforces, particularly in education, in which employees are removed from their positions, often due to lack of funding or reorganization. In Cabell County’s case, as it is in school districts across West Virginia, RIFs are generally the product of the loss of state funding generated by shrinking enrollment.

Cabell County Schools is down 297 students from last year — about the enrollment of Milton Elementary School. The projected corresponding loss of state funding, weighed based on district enrollment, has contributed heavily to the district’s roughly $2.6 million budget shortfall it will have to balance in the next fiscal year, explained Tim Hardesty, assistant superintendent of district support and employee relations at Cabell County Schools.

Once an employee receives a RIF notice, they may rebid on new job postings listed by the county prior to the school year — with preferred call-back granted to RIF recipients.

These postings are often caused by the dozens of retirements at the end of each school year or new positions created by redefined staffing roles — often roles replacing the position RIF recipients had, Hardesty said.

RIFs could be the product of schools eliminating or changing certain course offerings or programming, or simply if the district cannot guarantee they will continue their position in the next school year, Hardesty said.

One example would be if a kindergarten teacher position was eliminated based on declining enrollment, meaning that teacher could then bid on other positions in their certification posted prior to the next school year.

While the RIF process can be nerve-wracking, Cabell County Schools has been able to hire back all its affected personnel over at least the past two years, and the district makes a point to do so, Hardesty said.

The county is expected to begin posting about 50 job openings for professional employees and about 40 for service personnel in April, which will likely mean the rehire of most who received RIFs. Jobs are often available until the start of the next school year.

More senior employees may instead be transferred to new positions within their certification, as the RIF and rehiring process most often impacts staff with less service time. A counselor who is attached to one school, for example, may be transferred to another role as a counselor who serves multiple schools.

Cabell County Schools is staffed by around 1,250 professional employees at an average cost of around $65,000 per employee when considering all benefits. The district employs roughly 590 service personnel, with an average annual cost of around $42,000 per employee.

Should the expected 5 percent school employee pay raise proposed by Gov. Jim Justice come to fruition — which would increase funding from the state but not impact RIF totals — Cabell County Schools’ budget is expected to be around $117 million next year.