While Mayor Karl Dean meets with city schools superintendent Jesse Register about budget cuts at Metro Courthouse Tuesday afternoon, a group of local clergy, custodians and groundskeepers will be outside, holding a prayer vigil in a last-ditch effort to keep more than 600 jobs from disappearing.
The group is convening as school officials and Dean work to finalize a new budget that would lay off those workers and instead contract with a private company, saving the school district an estimated $5 million. The workers would then be able to re-apply for their jobs through the company Metro hires. It has issued a request for proposal already.
The vigil is being organized in part by the local Service Employees International Union, which represents the custodians and groundskeepers.
“We do know that it is going to force workers to re-apply for their jobs, and assuming these workers are re-hired, they will certainly see a cut in their pay, and they’ll have to pay more out of pocket for their health insurance and their pensions,” said Mark Naccarato, spokesman for the Local SEIU 205. “The faith community and our custodians want to make sure that the mayor and the council members consider the human equation and not just the financial equation.”
Metro schools faces a projected $35 million budget shortfall. To cover the shortfall and maintain the district’s teaching positions, Register last month proposed a $633 million budget for the next fiscal year  that would outsource the district’s custodial services and reduce the length of workdays for bus drivers by an hour per day.
Dean is expected to present a Metro budget at the end of the month.