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School system's financial picture forcing heavy funding cuts

School system forced to keep making cuts

Saturday, June 1, 2013 5:05 PM
Last updated Sunday, June 2, 2013 2:43 AM
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Richmond County Board of Edu­cation member Jack Padg­ett has one word to describe the school system’s financial situation.

Richmond County Board of Education member Jack Padgett calls the school system's financial situation "dire."   FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Richmond County Board of Education member Jack Padgett calls the school system's financial situation "dire."

“Dire,” Padgett said. “D-I-R-E.”

The district is facing $19 million in continued state cuts along with $2.5 million in new reductions for the 2013-14 budget year, following suit with the $117 million Georgia has slashed locally over the past five years. In addition, Richmond County will have to pay $1.8 million more in health care costs for noncertified employees than last year, with more increases projected for 2015.

To make up for the losses, Superintendent Frank Rober­son last week instructed all principals to cut 7 percent from their schools’ budgets. The principals were given freedom in where the money could be drawn from, but worksheets given to them included options for personnel layoffs, utility cuts and reductions in the use of substitute teachers.

“It’s going to be difficult in some situations, but that’s where we are,” Padgett said.

For smaller schools such as Willis Foreman Elemen­tary, 7 percent means cutting $167,700. To larger schools such as the Academy of Richmond County, whose yearly expenditures top $7 million, Principal Malinda Cobb had to find almost $500,000 to slash.

“Part of the bulk of it is coming from personnel cuts,” Cobb said. “We’re going to have quite a few.”

She said her faculty members came together and got creative on where they could find any expense to do away with. They talked about selling used cooking oil and shutting lights off earlier. When teachers get sick, they plan to cover one another’s classes to avoid paying substitutes.

Anything to save a dollar.

“Everybody has been really trying to think outside the box,” Cobb said. “They’re getting tired … and they want the furloughs to go away, so having the option to be asked what to cut has been good.”

Willis Foreman Principal Brenda Taylor said there will be no layoffs on her campus because they are already working with a bare minimum staff. To save on energy costs, which ran $148,000 in 2011-12, Taylor said, the school will no longer open before 7:30 a.m. and will shut down by 4:45 p.m., even though many employees arrive early and stay late.

Lunchroom workers will not be allowed to turn the ovens on as early, and each custodial staff member will serve as an “energy conservation manager” who will be responsible for flipping light switches and shutting doors.

The process has been painful despite being able to avoid staff cuts, Taylor said.

“Federal money has pretty much dried up,” she said. “State money has taken a drastic cut, so this is something that’s just a direct reflection of our national state.”

Richmond Academy, Cross Creek High, Butler High, Freedom Park Elementary, Glenn Hills High, Hephzibah High, T.W. Josey High, Sego Middle and Westside High all face more than $300,000 in cuts, with Cross Creek topping the pack at $516,000 in reductions. Required cuts at the remaining schools range between $100,000 and $300,000.

According to Controller Gene Spires, those 7 percent reductions at each school along with other cuts will balance the 2014 budget and allow for eight furlough days, one fewer than last year. Board members are expected to be presented with the proposed budget June 11 for approval, he said.

Padgett said he cannot picture himself approving a budget that does not propose contracting noncertified employees out to private companies. He said the cost of providing them health insurance is more expensive than some of the salaries, which is not logical to continue.

Padgett lamented several costs that he said made the budget process more difficult. In February, the school system had to pay a $241,000 fine to the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia for an oversight that resulted in seven retirees working more hours over a four-year period than allowed under state law. He also said the board’s approval in May to purchase a $78,000 Gallup Inc. hiring assessment tool was a luxury that could have been postponed.

Board member Frank Dolan said the crisis has to do with less local money flowing into the system. Richmond County had an $845,500 decrease in the amount of education sales tax collected in the past 10 months.

“Augusta’s economy is shrinking, it’s not growing,” Dolan said. “They can spout as much as they want about how great everything is. This is not that great. If we don’t get more business in this community – I don’t mean call centers that pay $15 or $20 an hour jobs. I’m talking big things like a Firestone plant.”

No matter how the budget gets balanced, Spires said the economic situation is evolving into a permanent state. State legislators have said austerity cuts might not go away anytime soon.

“This is going to be the new normal,” Spires said. “We’re trying to cut everything we can think of to cut, but there’s nothing left to cut.”

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mystery30815
18
Points
mystery30815 06/01/13 - 05:05 pm
5
0
I wonder if the Board has to

I wonder if the Board has to cut 7% also?

dichotomy
37448
Points
dichotomy 06/01/13 - 05:36 pm
10
2
"“Augusta’s economy is

"“Augusta’s economy is shrinking, it’s not growing,” Dolan said. “They can spout as much as they want about how great everything is. This is not that great."

You keep putting these taxes on us and adding SPLOSTS 1, 2 3, and 4 and pretty soon you take all the money out of the economy. You politicians keep telling us "it's just another penny" but it adds up, makes everything cost more, and pretty soon people buy less "stuff".

And then you raise out property taxes, our fire taxes, and our garbage fees and people will now buy EVEN LESS STUFF. And when the property taxes get raised, people's escrow payment goes up, their house payment goes up, and they buy EVEN LESS STUFF. And when you tax them out of their homes they will start walking away and leaving the county and then you won't get doodley squat. I should qualify that......that ones that haven't already left will leave...just for different reasons.

The politicians and school board have taxed us to death, wasted the money on downtown redevelopment and shiny new school buildings, and NOW THE CHICKENS HAVE COME HOME TO ROOST. 17 years of incompetent leadership and diverting all of the tax money downtown is starting to show up in the REST OF THE COUNTY. Their policies of putting all of our tax money downtown and the school board spending money on new schools like drunken sailors while mismanaging the regular budget have brought economic ruin to an entire region of the county and hasn't helped anything in the other areas.

Raising taxes and fees does not bring in more revenue. It only takes money out of the economy and makes people poorer. Poorer people do not spend as much as they used to. Think about it you idiots. You have more than maxed out the amount of taxes and fees that the average citizen in this county can pay. We are paying double the amount of property taxes that we should be paying, double the amount of school taxes we should be paying, double the amount of garbage fee we should be paying......and you fools wonder why you aren't collecting the amount of sales tax you thought you were going to get. PEOPLE DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY LEFT TO GO SHOPPING. Stop scratching your rear ends and wondering why you ain't getting enough sales tax revenue. When government confiscates all of the money there ain't much left for shopping and paying sales tax. Why don't you raise our property taxes and school taxes again and throw that RAIN TAX in for good measure and you will get EVEN LESS sales tax revenue. Which should not matter too much since Fred is already spending SPLOST money that ain't approved yet and I am not sure it will be approved next time.

And remember.....EVERYTHING IS CHEAPER IN NORTH AUGUSTA AND LESS TAXES AND THE LOWER PRICE OF GAS IN SC MAKES THE DRIVE WORTH IT.

Oh yeh, somebody call countyman and tell him that the crap is as bad as we've been saying it is. ESPECIALLY IN SOUTHEAST RICHMOND COUNTY. I don't think the "old city" redevelopment and the CBD are going to be able to pull us out of this hole. West Augusta and your target audience downtown may make it okay but you've killed the rest of the county.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 06/01/13 - 06:06 pm
2
9
Compare Augusta vs other size cities

Dichotomy... The latest metro unemployment rate is lower than the state of Georgia and South Carolina..

Starbucks is under construction, and the heavy construction of Rockwood might already be underway.. The Hagler Systems development should also be underway by now..

Didn't the Columbia County school board just approved raising taxes? They still didn't have to layoff many teachers though..

I don't think people in the CSRA realize how lucky they are especially over the last few years.. Many counties had to layoff teachers, and were complaining about furloughs..

The sales tax collections was recently changed were manufactures don't have to pay sales tax on energy they purchase.. The sales tax collections would be much different if Richmond County creating the local tax similar to Columbia County.

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:MuzVeM-yr9cJ:chroni...
Most taxpayers won’t notice, but Columbia County will start assessing a new tax on manufacturers if a vote goes as expected today.
The 2 percent energy excise tax – which the county commission is scheduled to approve – would replace local tax revenues lost from a state-enacted tax break.

Riverman1
93649
Points
Riverman1 06/01/13 - 08:25 pm
6
0
Countyman, do you have any

Countyman, do you have any ideas to help the Richmond County School System come up with some ways to pay the bills?

Sweet son
11634
Points
Sweet son 06/01/13 - 09:13 pm
5
0
Turning off lights and adjusting thermostats seems trivial but

system wide would create a substantial savings in utility costs. Just don't balance the budget on the backs of custodians like Columbia County. Cuts should be made starting at the top and working down.

triscuit
3266
Points
triscuit 06/01/13 - 09:14 pm
10
0
Clean out the dead wood

Clean out the dead wood downtown at the Central office and leave school staff alone.

specsta
7137
Points
specsta 06/02/13 - 12:52 am
7
6
The March Toward Stupidity

It's really strange how there is ALWAYS money to lock people up (America has the largest prison population in the entire solar system), but there is never enough money to educate people.

Are we really that stupid?

mrsbras
103
Points
mrsbras 06/02/13 - 06:05 am
4
0
wow

I can go on and on about how and what the rcboe should be doing to cut but who is gonna listen.The low grade mafia has a tight hold on what and who they want and until they get replaced we could talk all day. Question did the board pay back the 241.000 or did they make a payment and now we are paying a high rate to pay it back. Thats more money,Hiring a hiring firm to only tell you who the best person is and you still hire who you want.Ok what is the attorney salary? Now why do you have a secretary for the secretary of the secretary to the secretary of the any department heads
downtown. Most the people downtown need to be in the schools,they have gotten so lazy.I agree not having alot of subs in the building because on any given day those building have more sub than staff i will almost bet the sub spent more time in the school then the staff .They stay gone this year training training training for what cause the kids still did horrible.who is actually running this system????????????

Little Lamb
49036
Points
Little Lamb 06/02/13 - 06:53 am
4
1
Spilt Milk

Jack Padget moans:

“. . . following suit with the $117 million Georgia has slashed locally over the past five years.”

Don't fall for Padget's crocodile tears. What was done in past budget years is done. It does not affect current decisions. Look ahead, think smart, and get ’er done.

The first and most obvious thing is to slash the local salary supplement for certified staff. The supplement does not have to be cut to zero, but it should be cut substantially. I would suggest starting with a 50% reduction in the local supplement. Of course, contracts have already been signed for 2013–14 school year. But the board could vote right now to cut the supplement in the next school year so that budget writers and teachers can begin making plans.

And I will become a broken record and remind people that you can save serious money by going to a four-day school week, Tuesday through Friday. Transportation savings alone will be in the millions. Heating, cooling, and lighting costs will be large if you act wisely on those Mondays when the buildings are closed. And cafeteria savings will be substantial.

Richmond County has had Saturday schooling for several years. There has never been a report issued to the public about the results. I personally visited a Saturday session at Josey a few years ago, and I saw little instruction. It was a gabfest. People were wandering the campus in small groups gossiping. I saw little or no teacher involvement. It was just a place to hang out. Do away with it.

knowledge123
4
Points
knowledge123 06/02/13 - 06:16 am
2
4
Where are the business relationships?

There is no reason why RCBOE or CCBOE should be faced with budget deficits with an international tournament like the Master’s and global industries like Proctor and Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, Easy Go, Club Car, DSM and others raking in tax incentives from this area. School systems coordinate their spring breaks to meet their needs of the Augusta Nationals in exchange for minimum wage jobs for students, faculty and staff members. How much money does the covenant Master’s tournament donate to the local BOE’s? Where are the business brains on these boards? There is not enough conversation going on with the business communities in this area about supporting the local BOE’s.

Tax revenue is leaving this area because the same students that are being robbed out of an opportunity to learn are graduating from colleges only to return to Augusta and the CSRA for family reunions, weddings and funerals.

Industries in this area spend countless money on recruiting talent from outside Augusta to hire. When this area realizes that it in a global economy it is no longer about “the have and the have knots or black and white,” then will the sinking ship sail again.

Leverage the business community and get these budgets under control.

seenitB4
97482
Points
seenitB4 06/02/13 - 06:26 am
3
0
Horse

Do ya ever feel like you are beating a dead horse....yeh ...I do on this one!

justthefacts
25031
Points
justthefacts 06/02/13 - 06:58 am
7
3
Specta

I don't know if "we" are that stupid, but we sure have a large, stupid segment of our population commiting crimes that require the public be protected from them.

Little Lamb
49036
Points
Little Lamb 06/02/13 - 07:19 am
3
2
Ain't Obamacare Good!

From the story:

In addition, Richmond County will have to pay $1.8 million more in health care costs for noncertified employees than last year, with more increases projected for 2015.

In the first place, no, Jack, you don't have to pay $1.8 million more. You can change the policy.

In the second place, why do we get only selected piecemeal factoids from Jack Padgett? Why not tell us also how much more health insurance payments the school system is making for certified employees? Let's try to be more complete, here, Jack.

soapy_725
44111
Points
soapy_725 06/02/13 - 07:26 am
0
0
Its Procter & Gamble Mfg.
Unpublished

Its been in Augusta since 1962 and its products are in every home. Mr. Procter and Mr. Gamble. And you still can't spell the name correctly. Drive out to Mike Padgett Hwy. Giant letters for you to read. A Proctor is someone who overseas an exam or learning session.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 06/02/13 - 07:34 am
5
0
Cut the supplement!!!!!

The teachers in Richmond county are already taking cuts left and right with furloughs!! Not to mention they have a lower supplement than most counties already. Trim the fat at the top is where the cuts need to come from. If schools are performing low you can bet the problem lies with the leadership. I bet if school leaders started to take big cuts in pay they would work a lot harder at their jobs instead of blaming the teachers for everything which is usually what they do.

Little Lamb
49036
Points
Little Lamb 06/02/13 - 07:40 am
1
0
Furlough

Just how many furlough days have they announced for 2013–2014 school year, scooby?

I'm saying to cut the salary in place of furloughs. It's more honest.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 06/02/13 - 07:47 am
2
0
RC has had furloughs for

RC has had furloughs for years now. I don't doubt there will be more. In fact even in CC there is always the possibility in January. I still think the big cuts need to come from all these useless upper leadership/management positions. Most of my experience from visiting board offices have been seeing a bunch of people standing or sitting around doing nothing. In the ivory tower on Broad street they even have music being played in the restroom!!!!

Little Lamb
49036
Points
Little Lamb 06/02/13 - 07:54 am
5
0
Fight

From the story:

“Augusta’s economy is shrinking, it’s not growing,” school board trustee Frank Dolan said.

Them’s fightin’ words to Countyman, Frank. The south Augusta Five Guys will be the school system's salvation!

JRC2024
10420
Points
JRC2024 06/02/13 - 09:02 am
4
1
Specta, just what do you

Specta, just what do you think we should do with all the degenerates breaking into our homes, stealing or breaking into our cars, beating up and robbing citizens, shoplifting from our stores, selling drugs to our kids, murder and all other crimes? Take them behind the jail and shoot them, gas them or just let them go so they can continue their profession. I think not. I personally do not care to be around or associated with people like that and I bet you do not either even though I think you might be a little on the liberal side.

Dixieman
17375
Points
Dixieman 06/02/13 - 09:43 am
5
2
AS USUAL, DIXIEMAN HAS THE SOLUTION

Two words: Private school.
They don't whine and moan about cuts and funding, they just go out and get the job done -- better than government schools.
Take a second job or do whatever it takes to get your kids into a good private school and they will blossom. Best investment you can make with your money.
Oh, yeah, remember I said "good private school". This does not include Compass Academy in Aiken.

Darby
29249
Points
Darby 06/02/13 - 10:01 am
4
0
" The latest metro unemployment rate is lower

than the state of Georgia and South Carolina.."

Just another way to say: "My terminal cancer is better than your terminal cancer."

Darby
29249
Points
Darby 06/02/13 - 10:05 am
4
0
"The 2 percent energy excise tax –

which the county commission is scheduled to approve – would replace local tax revenues lost from a state-enacted tax break."

.
We don't need to "replace" taxes, we need to eliminate a bunch of them.

What we need to replace are people who think that every tax should live forever.

Darby
29249
Points
Darby 06/02/13 - 10:15 am
3
1
There has NEVER been a

correlation between money thrown at a problem and a solution to that problem.

No example provides more evidence of that fact than the continuous decline in American schools, nationwide.

The country is rife with cases of schools with low budgets and motivated teachers producing outstanding graduates.

Pouring good money after bad into failing schools is nothing but lazy stewardship of the system by slovenly and inept politicians looking for an easy way out of a difficult situation.

Money may or may not be the "Root of Evil", but it's definitely NOT the cure for all problems.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 06/02/13 - 11:07 am
2
2
Economy

Little Lamb.... The easiest thing to do is look at the GDP... The census doesn't provide the GDP for Richmond County, but they do for the metro area... Richmond by far is the most important county in terms of the GDP...

The economy grew from 19,220 million to 19,947 from 2010 to 2011...

The real GDP growth of 1.6% between 2010-2011 was faster than Chattanooga, Baton Rouge, Columbia, Dayton, Huntsville, Jackson, Lexington, Reno, Tucson, Rochester, etc...

http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/gdp_metro/2013/pdf/gdp_metro021...

''This April, because the numbers came out Thursday, the rate was 7.6 percent. The unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in 2012, 8.4 percent in 2011 and 9.6 percent in 2010. So, it has come down 2 percentage points in the last four years of economic recovery.''
http://chronicle.augusta.com/content/blog-post/tim-rausch/2013-05-24/aug...

The unemployment rate is now 7.6%, and in 2010 the rate was 9.6%

It's kinda hard to believe the economy of all an sudden is not growing in 2013.

1 billion NSA opened in 2012
$172 million Starbucks is well underway
$115 milllion Rockwood prep work is underway
Home2Suites by Hilton opened in 2013
Halger Systems major expansion

Riverman1
93649
Points
Riverman1 06/02/13 - 11:16 am
4
0
Can't Balance the Checkbook

The problem is those writing the checks have nothing in the balance column to pay the bills. Cutting millions won't be easy. Of course the county does have excellent private schools as Dixieman points out.

Riverman1
93649
Points
Riverman1 06/02/13 - 11:18 am
4
0
Has the number of Richmond

Has the number of Richmond County students grown? That's usually the reason that requires more funding, but I don't believe that's the case here.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 06/02/13 - 11:36 am
3
4
Facts

Little Lamb.. Since you love to make sarcastic remarks, don't forget H&M is opening their first store outside of metro Atlanta in the mall..

There's zero locations in the state of South Carolina at the moment..

The same people complaining on this article didn't comment when Columbia County just approved the tax increased.. They don't care that Aiken and Columbia already has the rain tax, and Richmond County just followed behind..

I think many people want Augusta to fail, and will latch on to any comment without providing any facts to back up their claims.

Radwaste
420
Points
Radwaste 06/02/13 - 12:30 pm
0
0
Don't miss the impact...

...of the Affordable Health Care Act - known as Obamacare, but passed by Congress, who is of course exempting themselves and favored others from compliance.
There is a solution, but since Congress is being paid to take control, not leave it to the public, it's not happening until we become Greece.

Fiat_Lux
16422
Points
Fiat_Lux 06/02/13 - 01:13 pm
1
0
People don't want Richmond County to fail, Countyman.

They just want to be rid of all the freeloaders and predators that have made a lot of Richmond County, maybe even most of it, a depressing place to live and sometimes a scary place to raise a family. Now those freeloaders and predators live almost everywhere and are multiplying so fast that there's no way to support them all. I want them out of formerly safe, stable neighborhoods so that decent people and families can feel safe in their own homes and neighborhoods again. I want to feel like my children are safe at school instead of being attacked or fondled or otherwise abused because they are hard-working, polite and not into or at all impressed by thug wannabees. That's what people want.

People want the county and school administrations to quit wasting our money. It's absurd to be trying to educate a significant percentage of the Richmond County students who clearly have no interest in or aptitude for academic pursuits. So much money could be saved if those who should be getting vocational training and placement in apprenticeships for blue collar jobs were learning something useful for their future as taxpaying contributors to our community instead of being babysat while they goof around and create an endless supply of little versions of themselves, all to be paid for by the unwilling sage earner/taxpayer.

The whole county school system should be a charter school system, with the majority of students being directed into vocational and apprenticeship programs that would prepare them to work in manufacturing and other skilled labor jobs. Then we really would see manufacturing jobs come to our area in a much bigger way.

The problem is that the very people who should be coming up with creative ideas and strategies seem totally clueless that anything needs to change. The current plan seems to be to do their deal level best to figure out ways to support the status quo, even if on a more limited scale. Yet there is a screaming need for a total transformation in our mindset about public education and about what people in the community ought to expect from government.

The biggest change for the better will come when our nation, state and community finally stop tolerating laziness, immorality and criminal behavior from our fellow citizens. When all able-bodies, non-disabled people are required to take responsibility for their own lives and for all the children they bring into the world, without the government subsidizing them, not only would our economy start to recover, but the kind of parental negligence that is producing so many shiftless freeloaders and criminals also would, of necessity for survival, begin to change for the better.

faithson
5526
Points
faithson 06/02/13 - 12:48 pm
1
0
good education is the only way out...

why must we put teen's through a 4 year high school program that many are completely unprepared for and in fact don't qualify for. Where are the 'industrial schools' so many of these students could be put in to learn a valuable work skill. where are the work farms that those who fall below even the two above educational opportunities can be sent to to learn a work ethic. Do we really 'think' that every young person out there should be given exactly the SAME. By the time a young person has spent 8 years in lower education, we should be able to determine with a high degree of certainty their potiential and the state's responsibility for their future education should be comenserate.

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