Originally created 10/10/01

Aiken schools move into hiring freeze



AIKEN - An anticipated budget shortfall from the state has led the Aiken County School District to freeze hiring additional personnel.

Comptroller Brock Heron announced at a school board meeting Tuesday night that there is a projected shortfall of between $2.1 million and $3.5 million for the current school year.

"We don't look to see any more money coming in. We're just hoping for no more cuts," Mr. Heron said. "Right now this affects personnel the most, because 80 percent to 90 percent of our budget is made up of salaries and fringe benefits."

The shortfall does not mean teaching positions will be cut; however, the district will try to cut support areas, he said. If a teaching position comes open, it is not likely the position will be filled.

If a teaching position is not filled, it will lead to an increase in the pupil-to-teacher ratio, he said.

"We do not want to back up on that," Mr. Heron said. "We have worked so hard to get the (ratio) where it is."

The current pupil-to-teacher ratio at the high school level in Aiken County is 28.5-to-1, and the ratio in first grade is 15-to-1.

Aiken County Superintendent Linda Eldridge said the district will evaluate any openings to see if someone else can cover the position.

The freeze could be temporary. The situation rests on the outcome of an Oct. 30 meeting scheduled between the state's economic advisers and the state Budget Control Board, Mr. Heron said.

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395.