Richmond County schools budget shrinks staffs, routes

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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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WoodyKaminer 05/18/11 - 05:52 am
Seems the county has been

Seems the county has been dipping into the reserve for quite some time now. Theres only so much time before Peter and Paul will want to be paid at the same time. I was just wondering when was the last time the county actually put money into the reserve, and where did it come from? Pretty soon RC will be charging students parents a fee for them to breath while in class, and a rental fee for the playground and restrooms, and a service charge to use the pencil sharpener, and a wear and tear fee for their desks, etc...

fred1217 05/18/11 - 07:06 am
Am I getting paranoid or did

Am I getting paranoid or did the Chronicle just change the title of yesterday's Columbia County to Raise Taxes or Furlough Teacher Story after Richmond County's very fiscally conservative plan was announced? I agree with Mr. Atkins and I would drop cutting transportation to the magnet schools; I wouldn't wait on a court's decision on that one. I am concerned too, that drawing down the reserves is getting old. We've built all these new stadiums and gyms, are we advertising in them? Maybe we could sell naming rights? What about renting out these facilities for meetings, events and other uses? I've noticed that the NFL Stadiums are doing this as an attempt to fill the void if there are no games. Also, there's a lot of yellow buses running around, they could carry advertisements too. Sporting events ticket price hikes...every penny counts.

Chillen 05/18/11 - 08:44 am
How can Richmond County make

How can Richmond County make it work without raising taxes but Columbia County seems intent on raising them?

Hmmmm. Sounds like the CC folks just want to drain more hard earned cash from their supposed "rich" tax base rather than make the hard decisions necessary to save money. Selfish.

Riverman1 05/18/11 - 08:49 am
Chillen, good point. Plus

Chillen, good point. Plus Columbia County is a much more desireable county to work in as an educator. They have applicants lined up for jobs.

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 05/18/11 - 09:35 am
Too bad there is no copy of

Too bad there is no copy of the draft budget presented here or at

WW1949 05/18/11 - 09:49 am
Why not do away with the

Why not do away with the sports which have to cost millions or at least make the parents of the children who want to play pay for their child. Cut out one of the free lunches or breakfast. We never had breakfast when we went to school-Our parents fed us.

bobbie23 05/18/11 - 09:55 am
Somethings never

Somethings never change...Ignorance and greed are just a couple in a long list of egregious acts perpetrated by the present and past Richmond County Administrations. People should take off blinders to see and open their minds to understand why many of our children would never make it outside of this county. Every wonder why we have so much crime committed by young people? It certainly is not the result of too much education. Take the money from the Board of Education members. Leave the teachers intact. They do not make enough to begin with. Get the people to listen to the importance of a child with values, morals taught, in part, by a caring upstanding education. The streets certainly cannot give anything to them but destruction and death. Pass a penny tax. It will go along way toward putting money back where it is needed; into the childrens education by keeping teachers. The teachers have no other thought but to teach. Ever wonder why all the trips, new cars, etc. are needed in order to properly run the schools? I don't know about you but I can not think of one good reason. Oh well maybe those who sit on expensive chairs in an expensive building eating expensive foods will find a reason that won't make them "gag" when asked "Why, in all your omnipotence, are you cutting teachers and other programs deemed of little or no use in the educating of our children?"

sassylassie 05/18/11 - 08:10 pm
It is amazing to me to hear

It is amazing to me to hear about how much money the special education department down there wastes. The aristocracy at the downtown office make way too much money in salaries as well. If the public only would examine the salaries of board office employees and the special needs department budget, they would revolt. Wasted money.
As far as the transportation for magnet programs is concerned, I think the parents should foot the bill and tranport their children themselves as part of the agreement for their students to attend. If you want your child to attend badly enough, you'll find a way to get them there. We got to school just fine although it was 17 miles away (some of you other posters here may also recall similar situations from your school days). Just food for thought.

scoobynews 05/19/11 - 06:01 am
As a former rcboe employee

As a former rcboe employee who worked in the trenches, I really feel sorry for the teachers that have to put up with these crazy folks running the system. The kids in most (note I said most not all) of these schools are out of control. I remember long ago when I first started teaching dealing with kids that would cuss you out at the drop of a hat, throw desk in the room, and refuse to do any work. The first opportunity I had to leave I bolted and will NEVER go back if I can help it.

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