Highland Elementary 2nd grade teacher Becky Montgomery works with a student during a computer math exercise Wednesday March 13, 2019. (Fred Joe/Special to Salem Reporter)
This article was updated on May 20 following a school board vote.
Thousands of local school employees will be furloughed one day per week starting May 22 under a plan by the Salem-Keizer School District to save money as its budget crashes.
On May 19, the Salem-Keizer Education Association and Salem-Keizer School Board approved a plan for educators to take a temporary 20% pay cut through the end of the school year on June 11, with most district employees off work on Fridays.
Classified employees, like bus drivers, maintenance workers and classroom aides, are due to vote Wednesday on a similar plan, which would then be approved by the school board.
District administrators, including Superintendent Christy Perry, will take the same pay cut through the end of July. Most will be eligible to receive unemployment to make up the lost wages.
The move is estimated to spare the district up to $10 million by July 31.
For a teacher making Salem-Keizer's average salary of $62,627 per year, the furlough would cut pay by about $240 per week. A full-time classroom aide earning the district's median wage of $19.26 per hour would earn about $154 less per week.
It’s a small portion of what’s likely ahead in cuts to balance the district’s budget for next year. Perry told budget committee members last week she’s expecting the district to be short $48 million of what it expected because of cuts to the state school fund, though the state hasn’t finalized any numbers.
Oregon will release a revenue forecast Wednesday that is expected to show a billion-dollar plunge in state tax collections, meaning there will be less to spend on state services and schools.
Under the furlough plan, employees could make up their pay cut with unemployment. That’s through Oregon’s Work Share, a program intended to help employers avoid layoffs by replacing lost income for workers who have hours reduced.
“The commitment that we made during this process was to keep employees whole,” district spokeswoman Lillian Govus said.
That includes leaving pay untouched for employees who likely wouldn’t qualify for Work Share because they have worked for the district less than six months, are on extended leave related to illness or injury, or are planning to retire at the end of the budget year.
Teaching would no longer be done on those Fridays through the rest of the school year, which ends June 10.
Employees who work year-round would lose Friday work days through the end of July. Part-time workers would reduce their weekly hours by 20%.
Workers needed to maintain district operations on Fridays, such as school meal distribution, would instead be off Mondays.
The plan does not affect employee health insurance, retirement contributions or other benefits.
The public can watch the district’s budget committee meeting starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday on via livestream, and the school board meeting immediately after at the same link.
SUPPORT SALEM REPORTER'S JOURNALISM - A monthly subscription starts at $5. Go HERE. Or contribute to keep our reporters and photographers on duty. Go HERE. Checks can be sent: Salem Reporter, 2925 River Rd S #280 Salem OR 97302. Your support matters.
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.