FORT WORTH -- School trustees voted Tuesday night to cut the jobs of 80 employees as the district braces for significant reductions in funding from the state.
The reductions include five special education teachers whose jobs were covered by two-year federal stimulus funding that is ending and about 40 teachers who had previously retired from the district but were rehired.
"Nobody, including this board, does this without pain," Superintendent Melody Johnson said. "You can't cut a budget that's 87 percent personnel ... and not cut a person."
The layoffs came the same day that federal officials announced that Texas would receive about $830 million in aid aimed at helping keep education jobs. But officials said it was too soon to tell when and how much individual school districts might receive or if the money would flow through general state funding.
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Fort Worth was originally slated to receive $12 million to $21 million in federal funding.
Some board members suggested avoiding job cuts by dipping further into the district's reserves. Officials estimate the fund balance will be $82 million by 2012 after budget reductions -- including job cuts -- and $47.7 million without the reductions.
"What concerns me most is the number of people we have to let go," said Trustee Juan Rangel, who was the only trustee to vote against some of the job cuts. "I'm still not convinced that we've looked everywhere we could look" for cuts.
Board President Ray Dickerson said the board has to make "the hard decisions" to manage the district responsibly in the long run.
"This board and management have to be prudent," he said.
Trustee Judy Needham expressed frustration that the district was getting no help from the state.
"To even have to cut one is too many," Needham said.
The district expects to lose up to $72 million in state funding over the next two years.
Some opt to resign
Administrators expected to cut 17 special-ed teachers whose jobs were funded by the federal stimulus money, but about 10 resigned rather than have their names appear on a termination list, which they feared would affect future job applications. Some of the so-called retire/rehire employees also opted to resign.
Trustees voted 7-2 to declare financial exigency, or emergency, a move required by law before some staff can be cut. Rangel and Trustee Carlos Vasquez voted no.
Officials also plan to dismiss some at-will employees, which could include administrators. They are still working on identifying and notifying those personnel. Those cuts do not have to be approved by the school board.
Samuel Monge, assistant superintendent for Human Capital Management, said the district will work with employees who are losing their jobs with workshops, job fair information and other means. He said principals and other supervisors will have a list of employees who were cut and will be encouraged to hire from the list when possible.
Larry Shaw, whose United Educators Association represents area school employees, said Fort Worth is cutting fewer teachers than some other area districts, including Keller and Cleburne.
Dave Robinson, who works with area school employees through the Texas State Teachers Association, said any cuts will hurt the district.
"Don't fool yourself that Fort Worth ISD can be just as good without the people you are losing. You can't," Robinson said.
In other business, trustees:
Voted 8-1 to approve contracts totaling $500,000 for gas leases. Trustee Ann Sutherland voted no.
Approved $600,000 to move the Center for New Lives school that serves pregnant and parenting teens to a new facility on the Eastern Hills High School campus.
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700