Richmond County schools brace for more cuts

Job cuts, furloughs might be necessary

Richmond County schools could see an extra $5 million in state funding cuts for next school year, likely leading to furloughs or layoffs, board member Jack Padgett said Thursday.

After hearing from state education leaders, Padgett said the total cut now looks to be about $17 million -- about $5 million more than officials expected and $4 million more than was cut this school year.

Padgett said such a cut likely would force the school board to consider implementing six or seven furlough days or cutting 30 to 35 positions.

"And I don't know if it's over yet," said Padgett, who is the board's legislative liaison, referring to how the district's projected cuts continue to change as the state Legislature firms up needed cuts based on dipping state revenues. "That's my biggest concern."

Padgett said that should the projected cut for Richmond County next year grow beyond $17 million, "I don't know where we go from that."

This school year, Richmond County teachers have had their pay cut the equivalent of five furlough days, being given time off on early release and professional development days.

School system officials have said a furlough day in Richmond County represents about $1 million. Six to seven furlough days next school year would represent $6 million to $7 million of the potential cuts the system could face.

The difference of that figure and the overall $17 million in potential cuts, Padgett said, could come from other places, to include attrition, meaning fewer jobs that become vacant would be filled.

Padgett said he expects the state Legislature to firm up its potential cuts as early as April. After that, he said, the Richmond County school board will begin its budget discussions for next school year.

Already, Columbia County school officials have eliminated 11.5 teaching positions for next school year. Before this school year, officials cut about 100 positions, including about 70 teaching jobs.

Superintendent Charles Nagle stated in an e-mail Thursday that he had not heard of additional cuts to his district since statements made by the governor two weeks ago.

"We are in a holding pattern for the moment," said Nagle, who previously has said he expects to lose about $8 million in state funding next year.

Columbia County Bureau Chief Donnie Fetter contributed to this article.