Stimulus saves school jobs, but future unclear

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Superintendent Dana Bedden said last week that he worries money will run out too soon.

Money from the federal stimulus act has saved 457 jobs in the Richmond County school system.

But will they last?

"That is going to be the big question," said Anita Faglier, the system's director of finance and accounting. "It depends on the economy."

If the state economy doesn't turn around in the next year or two, jobs saved could become jobs lost.

"That is not to say, if faced with doing away with positions, these would be the ones we would do away with," Mrs. Faglier said.

Ultimately, it will be the school board's decision on where to make cuts, she said.

Richmond County Superintendent Dana Bedden said last week, shortly after the board approved a new budget with the stimulus money, that he is concerned about the funds running out before the economy picks up.

"We were going to cut where we could before we used any stabilization funds," he said.

Because federal grant money is temporary, employees not being paid out of the system's general fund will have to sign paperwork acknowledging they are paid out of the stimulus, Mrs. Faglier said.

Richmond County used $14.8 million in stimulus money to plug holes in its budget and save jobs for the upcoming fiscal year. School officials were required to document which positions would have been lost without the stimulus.

Those jobs included teachers, paraprofessionals, bus monitors and clerical staff. Employees with the least seniority were chosen to be paid from the stimulus.

The stimulus money runs out in two years, when it's hoped that the economy will have picked up. Rules governing how the money can be spent, however, could put school systems in a bind even sooner.

More than $3.2 million directed at saving Richmond County school jobs this year won't be available for that purpose next year, Mrs. Faglier said.

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