Richmond County schools budget shrinks staffs, routes

In the first draft of the Richmond County school system's 2011-12 budget, proposed reductions include transportation, energy and staff.


With the district facing a $17 million revenue shortfall, Acting Superintendent James Whitson said staffers hope to make most of the cuts in areas that would have the least effect on students.

The initial proposal outlines about $7 million in cuts and $10 million to be made up in reserve funding, according to Gene Spires, the district's senior director of federal programs, budgets and grants.

About $1.5 million of the cuts are proposed for staff reductions, but more than half of those will be achieved through retirements, resignations, funding changes and other means of attrition.

Within those staff reductions, the proposed budget calls for seven or eight layoffs to save $600,000.

"Everybody's needed, but the problem is if we had to make cuts to try to balance the revenue with the expenditures, what would have the least direct impact ... on student learning?" Whitson said. The Board of Education did not vote on the proposal Tuesday, but members informally discussed certain cuts they might not approve in the future.

Included in the reductions is a proposal to eliminate all transportation for magnet school students, a savings of $383,750.

Several board members said that would hurt students in outer areas of the district who attend magnet schools.

"I feel the administration really dropped the ball on this," member Jimmy Atkins said afterward. "It's going to really destroy the whole magnet school concept."

Because of the large number of minority students who attend magnet schools, eliminating their transportation might also violate the county's court-ordered desegregation plan, which has been in place since 1972.

"It's a very slim chance that the court would allow the school system to (eliminate transportation)," Atkins said. "Even if the court did allow it, I feel it would be a big mistake."

Also in the draft are $200,000 in lighting and energy savings, delaying the $2 million payment for textbooks, $200,000 less in materials and supplies, and eliminating the transportation council.

The budget includes 16.5 positions that will not be filled after attrition and nine positions that would be funded using sources other than the general fund budget.

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