Pittsburgh schools' central office faces major cuts, layoffs
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Pittsburgh Public Schools budget cuts likely will be far deeper than previously expected, with more than 100 office workers' jobs at risk this summer and the possibility that teachers could be laid off in 2012, school officials said.
City schools superintendent Linda Lane said Wednesday that there will be a 50 percent cut to the central office's $73.9 million budget, with layoffs taking place sometime this summer.
The central office employs some 270 administrative workers, including assessment, technology and marketing staff. It wasn't immediately known how many positions would be eliminated.
Administrators hope to soften the effect through retirements and voluntary moves to other schools, meaning that less than half of affected workers will have to be furloughed. Some of those workers who could lose jobs are in unions, and severance deals may be arranged, city schools spokesman Craig Kwiecinski said.
Ms. Lane had first announced plans to cut office staff by 10 percent in March, before Gov. Tom Corbett announced his proposed cuts to education in his budget.
"Ten percent wasn't going to be enough toward closing our gap," Ms. Lane said, noting a $23.9 million deficit is expected in 2011.
And, she said, a $68 million deficit is projected for the school system next fiscal year, which begins Jan. 1. Surplus funds will not be enough to prop up operations through the next fiscal year.
"Without any changes we will have fully exhausted that and more by the end of 2012," she said.
Ms. Lane said that further cuts, including those to teaching staff, are all but a certainty.
"This will just be our first step," said Ms. Lane. "The question in my mind is, 'What's the number we're really going to have to fall for here?' "
Cuts affecting administrative offices will likely put more work on remaining employees' shoulders.
"The real issue is planning how the work is still going to get done," Ms. Lane said. "Obviously there would have to be reductions at schools."
Mr. Kwiecinski said specific cuts in the district's $541 million budget have not yet been determined but are likely to be announced by late summer in a "second wave" of cuts.
Speaking Wednesday at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side, where he was being discharged after back surgery, Mr. Corbett defended his budget, saying he has no option but to cut funding to public schools.
"I understand that people are upset," he said. "But we are $4 billion in debt.
"You can't spend money you don't have."
Correction/Clarification: (Published May 20, 2011) Pittsburgh Public Schools administrators hope to soften the blow of anticipated layoffs through retirements, attrition and elimination of existing positions. The district's plans were mischaracterized in a story on Thursday. Also, some of the workers who could lose jobs are union members, but school district spokesman Craig Kwiecinski said district officials have not held any discussions concerning severance packages for those employees.
First Published May 19, 2011 12:00 am