Carson City schools consider ‘voluntary separation’ plan to cut costs |

Carson City schools consider ‘voluntary separation’ plan to cut costs

Jessica Garcia

Carson City School District officials are considering a voluntary separation incentive plan to assist with budget reductions in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Superintendent Richard Stokes presented the plan to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday as one of multiple options to come this next year that the district might use as a cost-saving measure. The incentive plan would serve as a strategy to lower the impact on finances from incoming enrollment growth, Stokes and chief financial officer A.J. Feuling said.

With the district’s largest operating costs dedicated to staffing, the VSIP was a viable choice used in 2012. The program offers qualifying employees in Carson City who voluntarily choose to leave their employment with the school district. The incentive plan helps to reduce the number of layoffs required, though ultimately it might not eliminate all positions if more are needed for a hard line reduction, Stokes told the Appeal.

“We have people considering retirement, and there will be some sort of financial incentive for them to take, which then they would take the voluntary separation and receive a payment from the district, they would submit a letter of resignation, which then, rather than just going through and laying off the people, the people can self-select,” Stokes said. “So then any reductions might be more through a predetermined mechanism rather than the district going in and forcibly laying people off.”

Currently, the district has about 500 certified staff. The VSIP plan would be offered to positions available through the general fund and not grant-funded jobs.

The last time the VSIP was used in 2012, Feuling said, 33 employees accepted the offer and the reduction resulted in more than $1 million in cost savings, but it also depends on what the savings accomplished, he noted.

On Tuesday, Stokes told the board it’s important to note who is replacing experienced teachers as they leave the system. Younger teachers provide some financial savings but generally cost more as they earn advanced degrees and pay raises, resulting in more “belt-tightening” on the district’s budget, which is more out of Carson City’s control as time goes on, Stokes said. More presentations would follow in the spring prior to the board’s tentative budget meeting next April.

Feuling emphasized though it’s early to have serious discussions about significant budget reductions now for the 2020-21 year, it is important to begin gathering input from board members on their ideas and think ahead to the next year’s budget while ensuring there’s enough staff for daily operational needs.

“Part of it is the community is growing, and we have to make sure we have staff in all the right places to meet all of our obligations and responsibilities,” Feuling said. “It’s a little difficult to figure out all of that and juggle all of that and make it right.”