Pay cuts, furloughs approved

Pay cuts and furloughs helped balance the $225,241,336 budget the Richmond County school board tentatively approved Thursday.

Rising health care expenses, increased retirement costs and other expenditures created a $24.5 million hole in the budget, Richmond County Superintendent Dana Bedden said.

"It's probably the most painful thing I've had to do in the less than two years I've been here," Dr. Bedden said afterward. "I think the biggest thing for us was keeping people employed and sharing the burden."

Almost $2 million will be saved by cutting the local supplement for 190-day certified employees by $750 each. All employees except certified staff, such as teachers, will be furloughed for four days in the next school year. Teachers -- required by the state to work all 190 days -- will have the equivalent of a four-day pay cut without being furloughed.

That cut in pay would range from $67.66 a day for some employees to as much as $764.62 a day for the system's highest paid employee. Such cuts would add up to $1.8 million in savings, Dr. Bedden said.

Board President Marion Barnes said he understands the need for the pay cuts but he is concerned about the lowest-paid employees.

"We're taking money from the part-time people like custodians, and they can't even go to the store," Mr. Barnes said during the meeting.

All employees will receive personal notification on how the pay changes affect them by Sept. 1, Dr. Bedden said.

The After School Academy that was funded by the state's 20-day extension funds was eliminated to cut costs, said Virginia Bradshaw, the executive director of middle schools. The program was offered three days a week to help students excel on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

"We've gotten better at providing more targeted interventions during the school day, so we feel like we'll be able to meet the needs," Dr. Bradshaw said.

Larger classes also will affect Richmond County students, board member Alex Howard said. Class sizes will be increased to eliminate 43 unfilled teaching positions

"That does not have a good impact on student achievement, but we have to be realistic," he said. "These cuts have to be made, bottom line."

The finalized budget is expected to be approved June 23.

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

HIGHLIGHTS OF BUDGET CUTS

These are some eliminations made by the Richmond County school board and how much it saved in the budget:

$1,987,080: Reduce local supplement for 190 certified staff by $750 each

$1,056,822: Eliminate after-school program

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

$842,788: Reduction to equalize the equivalent of four days pay, for certified employees, teachers, counselors, etc.

FOR A FULL LIST of the school board's budget reconciliation measures, visit www.rcboe.org/home.aspx