School Board Cutting Custodian Salaries to Reduce Budget?

During budget discussions last night, some members of the Chapel Hill Carrboro School Board indicated that they would support a strategy to cut their budget that would affect some of our lowest income workers. A proposal was made to move 15 custodians from being school district employees making $11/hour to contractors making only $9.60/hour. This would save $30,000, but is it really the way we want to save money? Not me.

The School Board may vote on this budget cut on July 17th, depending on when the North Carolina General Assembly passes the state budget and what it includes.


The School Board is considering nearly $2 million of cuts in two tiers: roughly $800,000 if the House budget were to prevail (unlikely) and another $950,000 if the NCGA approves a compromise budget. The vast majority of those cuts involve cutting salaries or eliminating positions, most of which are already on the lower end of the pay scale. Upshot: the options we have left will harm real people and impact students in the classroom. 

Yep, the NCGA's tax cuts have come home to Orange County. The worst news is that if Senate negotiators prevail, we might have to move to an undetermined Tier 3 which necessarily will mean more jobs list.

Molly, I'm away from a real computer and my IPhone cut and paste skills are limited. It might be good to put the two tables of potential cuts up so folks can see what the antics of the NCGA have wrought. (As always, I need to thank the Orange County Commissioners for bravely raising the property tax. If they hadn't, these cuts would have been much worse.)

Mia Burroughs 


Tier 1: (what's required to match House budget)
Item FTE Amount
Central Office Reorganization Salary Reduction   25,000
Reduction in Central Office Contracted Services   60,000
Postpone Counseling Study   50,000
Northside Start-up Reduction    32,000
NCVPS Local Reserve Reduction    150,000
Class Size Minimums at Secondary Level (2.4FTE)  2.4 171,629
Reduce Gifted Specialists (4.5 FTE)  4.5 321,804
Reduce Driver Education Local Subsidy    40,000
Total  6.9 $850,433
 Tier 2: (next round to consider)
Reduction Order  Item  FTE  Amount
1 Eliminate Service Learning Coordinator and Program  1 50,000
2 Custodial reductions (Contract 15 PT positions and consolidate)  7.5 125,000
3 Reduce teacher assistants work year    150,000
4 Remainder of the Gifted Specialist Reductions (3.5 FTE)  3.5 250,292
5 Reduce 1 secretarial position at each high school (3 FTE)  3 133,038
6 Reduce Media Assistants K-8 to part time (7.5 FTE)  7.5 262,500
Total    21.5 $920,830
 From the agenda this week -

supported paying cutting custodian pay?

Around 20:50 mark in this video - (16 minutes of discussion on this)Annetta Streater and I were only board members who spoke against it.

why is there so much being cut from the low income staff ($408,000 from custodians and clerical) and only $85,000 from central office? Seems like there should be more room for reductions from the higher wage earners. Based on what I could find, there haven't been any cuts to the central office since 2009/2010.

Who is making the recommendations of where to cut? Why its the central office administrators who will not cut there own staff areas. Maybe the question is how smart are the school board members to grilled the staff members on their recommendations?

It's a bit disturbing that it was just you two.

Wouldn't shifting these employees to contractor status also mean they would lose their benefits?


They are part-time (20 hours/week) today.  We offer very limited benefits to less than 30 hours/week employees today (some paid holidays and pro-rated sick days I think is what Ms Adkins said).

Main question - Mia - what's your take?

Mark- Thanks for asking. By insisting on continuing to cut taxes more, the current majority in the NCGA is forcing us to reduce hours or cut positions that will hurt real people and diminish children's educations. We've already cut over $8 million since the start of the recession so we have very few options left. We still don't know how much we have to cut since our state "leaders" continue to fight among themselves. That said, I believe we are elected first to educate all our children so I have to look at how each cut will impact them. Some have suggested that we cut administrators' salaries and I respect that thinking. If I didn't believe that the leaders we have in place are, in fact, making real and lasting changes that will improve what children are learning in the classroom now and for years to come, I'd support that option. I'm not willing, however, to let the NCGA's antics imperil that work by forcing us to further damage those administrators' morale. I am encouraging anyone who will listen to spend their time and treasure on defeating the vulnerable NCGA members who voted to force us into these atrocious decisions.

I Too am in agreement with Mia and encourage those too who agree to lobby our legislature. Gary Kahn

Working to shift the makeup of the General Assembly is important. Meanwhile, what are the alternatives to cutting pay for the school district's lowest-paid employees?

What alternatives are there that could offset this $125,000 line item? This doesn't seem fair.

Secretaries generally are paid about the same as custodians. Teacher assistants may be paid even less. And media specialists aren't far behind. The difference? Custodians are generally men, the others are typically positions filled by women. If you're going to oppose cutting low wage workers, I hope you will stand up for all, not just some. The total for all of those job classes comes to $408,000. The question is what happens to those workers when they lose their jobs. 6 weeks of unemployment then what? This solution may save money for the school district but ultimately, the true cost of their unemployment is carried by the community. I appreciate Mia's position that cuts to central office would further damage morale, but so will the loss of TAs, custodians and clerical staff.

Cutting the Mandarin Dual Language Program might cover most, if not all, of this line item.

Sorry to say the Board will not do that, they are affair of these parents may take their children somewhere else, thereby hurting the system's high test rankings.

The NCGA isn't changing until the next census.  The more important quesiton is what program and services are being evaluated for cuts instead of cutting positions and pay? 

The Center for American Progressive, a liberal think tank, recently published a national review of educational productivity based on per student funding allocations, costs of services and student outcomes. The report is broken down by state and then by district. Orange County Schools received the highest rating (1). CHCCS was rated as a 3, indicating that, based on the methodology, there is some financial waste meaning that all the money spent is not benefitting student learning.A couple of explanations based on my review of this report. First, the data used is from 2010-2011 and the previous CHCCS superintendent.  The new superintendent has instituted changes that are not reflected in this report.Second, while Orange County is rated as more fiscally productive, CHCCS has significantly better test scores even though they have a higher than average percentage of students with Limited English Proficiency (which appears to be due to the Asian population).Interesting details (to me anyway): There are 117 districts total in North Carolina. CHCCS has the highest achievement rate in the state (90). They have the 12th highest per pupil expenditure ($10,696). The highest is Hyde County ($18,435) which also go the lowest productivity rank (6).  Orange County has the 28th highest per pupil expenditure and got the highest productive rank (1). The are 33rd in terms of achievement. I hope what everyone wants to to ensure our children receive the best possible academic opportunities, which is reflected in Achievement score. But that needs to be mediated by a wise use of the increasingly tight annual budget. This measure of productivity seems useful to me and could easily be used as a metric for reviewing budget decisions. Any budget cuts should reflect the district's overall mission which is to educate students. 

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education Chair has provided more information on proposed cuts that may have to be made given what may come out of Raleigh when the NCGA finally passes it's budget, now two weeks late. See her column in yesterday's Chapel Hill News here.

School custodians are not the only employees being considered for cuts and these cuts are in the second tier of proposed cuts with cuts to positions and salaries of other staff members included in a first tier of cuts to be determined once there is a state budget.

I've worked with staff and elected officials in both Chapel Hill and Carrboro in my role as the leader of Orange County Justice United's Fair Jobs & Wages Team to improve the living wage policies for town employees and so can't support lowering the wages of our low income neighbors. I certainly acknowledge, however, that these are tough tough decisions that may have to be made and that the NCGA is forcing the hands of the CHCCS Administration and Board of Education in making these decisions. I'd hate to see any positions cut or salaries reduced, but I'd be most opposed to that for our lower income workers who must make ends meet with a lot less already.

I read in Chapelboro this morning that James Barrett took a lot of heat for posting information here about the School Board's options for cutting the budget. I would like to thank James for his contributions to this discussion and state my wholehearted disagreement with the Board Chair's statement that his contribution has been disrespectful of the board and staff. Budgeting for all of our public entities is complicated and difficult for outsiders to understand. But these are real issues and any efforts to clarify the challenges should be applauded not chastised. There will always be disagreements on how to solve problems, especially in times like these when it doesn't feel like there is any way out of a quagmire. But to me, that's when we need the most sunshine. James has been clear, for the several years that I've known him, that instruction comes first. Balancing education with social and economic justice isn't an easy or obvious choice. I would hate to think our BOE could make such sensitive decisions in lock step. 

An appropriate response to information which one feels is being provided out of context is to provide more information to reduce the gaps they feel exist in the surrounding information.

Admonishing someone for sharing information about a public process, like the budget, is not that right approach.

Thank you, James, for sharing with us here on OP.


I'm not quite sure I understand what James posted that was even potentially controversial. We looked over a similra list as part of a budget workshop that the school admin held with representatives from every school.

Now that the North Carolina General Assembly has finally passed a state budget, the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools can finalize and vote on theirs. And this week they will. Their final budget comes out this Tuesday (August 5th, 2014). The board members will vote on it at their meeting this Thursday (August 7th, 2014) at 7:00 pm at Lincoln Center. The budget will be posted on the Schools website on Tuesday. We will post a link when it becomes available.

As a result of the large amount of material that the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools administration must review to provide a final budget for a vote, the meeting has been pushed back to the original meeting date of Thursday, August 14th. The final budget should be released by this Friday.

According to the district website, the budget will be posted Monday.

The Chapel Hill Carrboro City School's proposed budget can be accessed here. Discussion of the custodial staff can be found starting on page 5. Looks like the reductions to custodial staff were moved from Tier 2 cuts to Tier 1 cuts and the administration is proposing to move custodians from being school district employees to employees of a contractor who pays less. You will also see that cuts are proposed to central office salaries and contracted services, Northside start-up funding (no longer needed), On-line courses, Class size reductions and gifted specialists (addressed through attrition and reassignment so no positions are cut), and elimination of the Driver's Education subsidy (found not to be needed). 

The proposed budget includes raises for teachers and a 3% raise for administrators.

The budget will be discussed and a vote taken this Thursday (August 14th) at 7:00 pm at the Lincon Center. Here is their agenda.

Thanks Molly for posting this update. The recommended budget also calls for eliminating 23 Teacher Assistant positions. Although the NCGA did allow us to use some extra funding earmarked for teachers for TAs, the funding isn't nearly enough. We would have to convert those funds AND cut eight more teachers to save all the TA positions. As a result of attrition, the eliminated positions won't result in layoffs but since they won't be replaced, students will have fewer caring adults helping them learn. 

Also, the 3% is not just for administrators but for all staff who are not teachers. That includes bus drivers, principals, counselors, custodians and the TAs.

Not being immersed in this world, I wasn't sure who were included as classified staff. Do we know how many custodians are staying as district employees and will be receiving the 3% raise?

Good question. I double checked and find that 43 full-time and 24 part-time custodians will get the 3% raise if the Board approves the reccomendation tonight.


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