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UPDATED: Hart District offices and schools to close Friday for cost-saving furlough

State budget crisis forces unpaid day off

Posted: February 10, 2009 4:24 p.m.
Updated: February 11, 2009 8:07 a.m.
 
Friday is the William S. Hart Union High School District's first unpaid furlough day as district officials grapple with an estimated $40-million district budget shortfall over the next two years.

"It's going to be extremely tough to trim enough from our budget to reach the mark that it looks like the state will be setting for us," said Vicki Engbrecht, assistant superintendent educational services.

Furlough Friday, the only unpaid day off planned for the 2008-09 school year, represents the situation many school districts are going through. "It is a sign that this budget crisis goes far beyond what we've seen in recent years," Engbrecht said.

The decision to close the Hart district offices Friday was made in 2008 as a way to save the district money for the 2008-09 fiscal year with the least impact on students, Engbrecht said.

"The Hart school district was notified that we could have not a one-and-a-half-million-dollar shortfall, but closer to an $8 million shortfall where monies previously guaranteed by the state weren't coming," said Hart board president Steve Sturgeon.

The estimate is nearly double from the original projections. "We're looking at a bigger loss. We've moved from $20 million at the end of last year closer to a $40 million shortfall over the next two years," Sturgeon said.

Friday's unpaid day off is expected to save the district $529,000 and will have an impact on roughly 1,800 employees.

"The furlough day is intended to affect everybody equally from the standpoint of percentage," Sturgeon said.

Friday is the only furlough day scheduled for the 2008-09 school year.

If additional unpaid furlough days were scheduled in the next school year, each day could be expected to save the district $624,000, according to Sue Guthrie, chief financial officer. Such days would have to be negotiated with the district's employee unions before implementation.

Furlough Friday was already scheduled as a day off for all of the Hart district's employees and was meant to be a staff-development day for teachers, said Pat Willett, Hart district spokeswoman.

Students won't lose any class time because of the furlough.

Roughly 80 percent of teachers chose to attend the training day and are paid for an extra day, Willett said.

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