School board faces tough financial calls

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Faced with a $24.5 million shortfall, the Richmond County school board is considering a list of unpleasant options, including furloughs, but those cuts are just the beginning.

"This is going to be very difficult," Director of Finance and Accounting Anita Faglier said. "There is going to be a lot of pain."

The financial decisions are so tough that this is the first time in at least 23 years that the school board will be presented with an unbalanced budget, she said.

"It was such a large gap we need everybody to work together," Controller Gene Spires said.

Even last year when hit with a $13.4 million shortfall, a balanced budget was presented.

But Richmond County's student enrollment continues to fall, costs to operate the school system continue to climb and cuts to the state's education funding formula continue to mount.

The school board will meet Monday for its first hearing on the fiscal year 2010 budget.

School officials quietly trimmed $12 million from its expenses throughout the school year, primarily through energy-saving measures.

The $24.5 million shortfall was also whittled down to just under $18 million through several measures. For instance, increasing class sizes will enable the school system to cut 43 teaching positions, mostly through attrition, to account for $2.9 million in savings, the biggest reduction in the proposed budget.

Now the board is considering a list of options to save $10 million more, and the cuts would just be the beginning. Even if the board goes with all of the options, it would leave an $8 million gap.

Among the more significant options being considered are furloughs, the use of stimulus money, pay cuts, cutting custodian positions and layoffs.

The furloughs would apply to all employees, except bus drivers and 190-day certified employees, which includes teachers, counselors and media specialists.

State law requires 190-day certified employees to work that amount of time, and it's not practical to furlough bus drivers because they only work the length of the school year, 180 days.

Each furlough day would save $248,928, and the option given to the board is to mandate four.

About $3.2 million in stimulus funding could help plug the financial hole. Originally, officials didn't know this was permitted.

Another option is to cut the local supplement for 190-day certified staff by $750. This had been considered a year ago, but was dropped by the school board during budget hearings. School systems, such as Richmond County, attract teachers by using local revenue to pay above the state teacher pay scale. In Richmond County, the local supplement ranges from $2,350 to $3,550.

The school board could also cut 25.5 custodial positions. Fewer custodians will be needed with the purchase of automatic scrubbers, which make cleaning quicker.

A bright spot might be the school board's "rightsizing," the process it is going through to determine the best use of its facilities.

Next school year, the board will move pupils from Milledge Elementary to Lamar Elementary while a new Milledge is constructed, but the estimated $1.5 million saved in operation costs weren't factored into the budget because it was drafted before the board approved the school merger.

Those savings could help balance the budget and reduce the shortfall.

The school board's budgets have steadily become more difficult to balance in recent years.

"The state has passed on tremendous austerity reductions," Mrs. Faglier said. "Basically, they're taking money from us."

The state divvies up education funding primarily based on a formula. Unfortunately, it cannot fully fund the formula's allocations, so it must reduce the amount promised -- a so-called "austerity reduction." For fiscal year 2010, Richmond County's reduction will be $13.9 million. Since fiscal year 2003 the cumulative reductions will total nearly $52.6 million by next year.

"When you take and take and take, you reach a point when you have no where to give it up," Mrs. Faglier said.

The board's meeting will begin at 10 a.m. Monday. A final budget must be adopted by the end of June.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

SCHOOL BUDGET OPTIONS

Some of the reductions being considered by the Richmond County school board could be offset or lessened by cutting general fund funding and using money from other sources. Here are some of the options and the potential savings to the general fund:

- Eliminating or reducing the extended program day at Murphey Middle School: $427,600

- Eliminating or reducing extended day at Collins Elementary School: $142,216

- Eliminating or reducing extended day or summer school at high schools: $279,155

- Eliminating or reducing the after-school program: $1,056,822

- Furlough all employees four days except 190-day certified staff and bus drivers: $995,712

- Reduce the local supplement for 190-day certified staff by $750: $1,987,080

- Cut 25.5 custodial positions because of the purchase of auto scrubbers: $454,950

Source: Richmond County Board of Education

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factfinder
6
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factfinder 05/17/09 - 01:09 pm
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The reality is as citizens we

The reality is as citizens we have failed because we have allowed board members to get by with nepotism, cronyism, and thereby allowing the superintendent (any superintendent) to behavior in a manner that is less than beyond reproach. Rather than operating on the premise of "What is best in terms of educating the populace" we have diluted our educational system to who do I need to know and what do I need to do to get the highest possible salary in education. Dr. Bedden is doing what he needs to do to satisfy the correct board members, and because he knows who the key players are he realizes that he does not have to even entertain the concerns of the community. This attitude is also filtered down to SOME principals that are hired to run the schools, they know that in reality they are not held accountable for anything but test scores. Therefore many are given carte blanche to use intimidation tactics, and make decisions that are illogical and unscrupulous. WAKE UP, LET YOUR VOTE COUNT, AND LET THE BOARD MEMBERS KNOW THAT YOU ARE HOLDING THEM RESPONSIBLE. THERE ARE ALSO OTHER PROCEDURES IN PLACE TO ADDRESS THESE ISSUES. If WE REALLY WANT A BETTER SCHOOL SYSTEM BE PROACTIVE!

braxtonkbragg_
0
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braxtonkbragg_ 05/17/09 - 01:16 pm
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Immediately cut all the

Immediately cut all the spokespersons positions and the central office staff by 75%. Then ,start working from there.

georgiastoryteller
0
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georgiastoryteller 05/17/09 - 01:59 pm
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How many days will Bedden be

How many days will Bedden be furloughed? I wonder. His salary is sickening. I agree--the central office staff should be cut (Title 1 director, Instructional Coordinators, Spokesperson)as well as some instructional coach positions not to mention afterschool babysitting. What happened to the four day school week? That would cut some funds right there. Oh, i forgot! People would actually have to find care for their kids on Fridays. My bad.

Unique Ed Techie
1
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Unique Ed Techie 05/17/09 - 02:06 pm
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Public form with public

Public form with public results. Do you have suggesstions for RCSS improvements and budget cuts? Help an adult student with homework while providing your recommendations. http://tr.im/lAOM

wcr250
71
Points
wcr250 05/17/09 - 02:36 pm
0
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Close these sewers and issue

Close these sewers and issue vouchers for private schools.

Tots
26068
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Tots 05/17/09 - 06:31 pm
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Stop the after school

Stop the after school programs.Why do they pay the teachers to stay after school and teach them ? when they could'nt teach them during regular hours.And whats up with the fit kids after school program at Diamond Lakes?All of these programs are free babysitting for a select few.Keep a better account of the trucks and unmarked cars who get fuel at transportation. They should show documentation.Do away with the jobs that were made in the past two years for certain people.It takes four people to do what one lady used to do.Only she did it better.Cut the fat off the top.Then trim the rest on down.Ask Bedden to agree to stay on without the high bonuses you people are giveing him with our taxpaying money.If he says no then all the people who voted to give him the money should have their pay cut first.Nexit time they will think before giveing away our money.

lylagirl
1
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lylagirl 05/17/09 - 06:40 pm
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Get a reality check JustMe

Get a reality check JustMe because you are JustTripping!

Tots
26068
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Tots 05/17/09 - 06:46 pm
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factfinder11:49&1:09 were

factfinder11:49&1:09 were good post.Liked whatthetruth at 12:01 and Kristina907 at 1:59.I thought you all had good points on your post.

Ode
5
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Ode 05/17/09 - 08:11 pm
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It isn't that hard. If

It isn't that hard. If enrollment is dropping then you don't need as many personnel, schools, buses, etc. Is the educational system even capable of getting back educating? They certainly don't need extended school programs. You are a school not a babysitter. You don't need graduation coaches, psychiatrists, and all the needless administrators.

Parental Reformist
0
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Parental Reformist 05/17/09 - 09:31 pm
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It is apparent to me that

It is apparent to me that most of the people complaining here are of the upperclass. You speak of doing away with after school programs ,free breakfasts, psychiatrists, and special education. Apparently you have not been in any of the Richmond County Elementary schools lately. With a failing economy, failing students, Principals that allow anything to go on and remain oblivious, I think it is safe to say, by letting any of these programs go you are cheating the children. Walk those halls before you make outrageous statements. Disgusta is 2nd largest city in Georgia, yet we have nothing to be proud of here. Start making the cuts at the top. Begin with the nepotism,(1 must go), next cronyism, (transfer and pay cut), cut those who do not perform up to standards,(start with principals who can not run their schools effectively, and members of the elite downtown club, who have sat on their laurels long enough.) Don't cut the programs that are of such a need to so many. Lastly, if you don't vote, or take part in the meetings at the schools, or the board, stand down because your only true interest is in your pockets, and not for the children.

lylagirl
1
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lylagirl 05/17/09 - 09:43 pm
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I'll see you at the

I'll see you at the meeting!!! Considerthis

Tots
26068
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Tots 05/17/09 - 10:17 pm
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You can go to the

You can go to the meetings.But they wont let you speak.You have to send them a letter,telling them what you wont to say.

corgimom
33938
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corgimom 05/18/09 - 01:26 am
0
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Last year I worked in a

Last year I worked in a combined K class with 31 students. It was exhausting and the kids did not get the individual attention that they needed. The curriculum is different than when we went to school, and the children are different. There was no NCLB. There was no mainstreaming of disabled kids. There were no ESL kids. There was no such thing as a crack baby or mentally ill children in school. How many autistic kids were in your class? How many of your friends came from broken homes? How many of your friends had mothers that worked? All of those things makes a huge difference. After about 20-22 kids, it becomes extremely difficult to complete the lessons as dictated by the state Board of Education. There is such a push on academics that it is getting harder and harder to find the time to work with children that struggle. Something needs to change, and needs to change soon.

Tots
26068
Points
Tots 05/18/09 - 05:47 am
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The NCLB is one of the

The NCLB is one of the stupidest programs that was ever started.But the school system likes it cause they say the money comes from state taxes not property tax.I dont care its a wast of money.CORGIMOM-you also hit some of the proplems on the head.

dhd1108
1
Points
dhd1108 05/18/09 - 05:47 am
0
0
wonder how much they'd save

wonder how much they'd save by cutting out the sports departments.. hmm..

Augustapaperdoll
0
Points
Augustapaperdoll 05/18/09 - 06:04 am
0
0
I worked in an after school

I worked in an after school program and that once a month pay was more than my regular monthly pay.

jubalaearly
0
Points
jubalaearly 05/18/09 - 07:41 am
0
0
Cut the top 50 salaries by

Cut the top 50 salaries by 30% and see how much is saved--prob a mil+

disssman
6
Points
disssman 05/18/09 - 10:39 am
0
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I see a chance for some huge

I see a chance for some huge performance bonuses here. Anyone want to bet that someONE will be collecting a huge paycheck? And our elected members are just the group to provide it.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 05/18/09 - 11:38 am
0
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Afterschool programs are not

Afterschool programs are not the only babysitting services being offered - school sports programs, detention, and school dances. Parents are sometimes 30 minutes to an hour late picking up their kids from these functions.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 05/18/09 - 11:48 am
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0
By cutting the extended days

By cutting the extended days and after school baby sitting programs (a total of 1,905,773) the county can save teacher supplements.

Tots
26068
Points
Tots 05/18/09 - 02:01 pm
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Augustapaperdoll 6:04-ME to.

Augustapaperdoll 6:04-ME to. Also worked the sat-program really good money.I saw all the programs were a waste of money.But it sure did pay off my bills.

lifelongresidient
0
Points
lifelongresidient 05/20/09 - 08:11 am
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i wonder what the football

i wonder what the football stadiums and b-ball gyms cost, i bet the cost of these athletice venues for 3 of the worst schools in the county would have went a long way on helping to balance the budget...but i guess the mental midgets on the school board thinks sports are more important than education.

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