Decision on teacher furloughs, tax increase delayed

Decisions about a possible tax increase in Richmond County and how many furlough days teachers could face next school year will be made next week.

The timeline for adoption of next fiscal year's school budget was set Tuesday at a called school board budget hearing, where members agreed to take the vote at 3:30 p.m. June 8, before regularly scheduled committee meetings.

The decision to delay the vote -- which was expected Tuesday -- followed lengthy discussion on three options to balance the roughly $240 million budget:

- Eight furlough days for workers, 35 teacher cuts through attrition and no increase in taxes

- Eight furlough days, 35 teacher cuts by attrition and increasing the tax rate to the cap.

- Six furlough days, 35 teacher cuts through attrition and increasing the tax rate to the cap.

 

The proposed tax increase for the owner of a $100,000 home would be $29.89 a year.

The board was told it couldn't approve a budget Tuesday until a motion made in an earlier meeting by Vice President Alex Howard was rescinded. Howard had asked that board member Jack Padgett meet with the school system's transportation council before any budget adoption.

Padgett was asked to do so after he had made a motion in an earlier meeting that all school system workers take the same number of furloughs. That was counter to an administration proposal that bus drivers, bus monitors and paraprofessionals be allowed to take fewer furlough days, partly because they were unable to receive equal time off from last year's furloughs.

Howard agreed to rescind his motion, but the school board attorney said it couldn't be added to Tuesday's meeting agenda and therefore had to be addressed at another meeting.

The school board has decided half the furlough days would come by reducing teachers' contract work days, meaning they wouldn't have to pay their retirement contributions for those days.

Padgett reiterated he favors eight furlough days and going to the tax cap to provide flexibility should the district be hit with additional midyear cuts. He said that if those cuts don't come, two furlough days could be restored.

"I think we're looking out for the employees and also the system as a whole," he said.

School board member Frank Dolan, though, who has said he opposes a tax increase, questioned the costs of running the school system's central office, calling its salary figure of more than $20 million "excessive."

Superintendent Dana Bedden countered that many employees have their salaries processed through the central office but work in the field. He also said more than $2 million has been trimmed in that area and further cuts could affect services.

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