Richmond County schools face extra $6.5 million in cuts

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The Richmond County school board gambled and lost.

Last week, the board voted against raising taxes slightly more than $8 for a $100,000 house, sticking Superintendent Dana Bedden with a $1.1 million shortfall and gambling that state funding wouldn't continue to be slashed as tax revenues plummet.

On Tuesday the board came up snake eyes.

Gov. Sonny Perdue dealt the school system an estimated $6.5 million in cuts, part of a larger plan for offsetting a $900 million drop in state revenue.

The school system -- already facing the possibility of furloughs and layoffs -- must now dig even deeper to offset the lost revenue.

Raising taxes is no longer on the table.

Bert Brantley, Mr. Perdue's spokesman, said 3 percent will be cut from the state education funding formula and school systems will be cut the equivalent of three furlough days for all state-funded positions.

Mr. Brantley said the governor doesn't have the legal authority to mandate educator furloughs, but school boards are having their funding reduced the equivalent of those furlough days.

Higher education was cut 5 percent, as were most other state budgets, Mr. Brantley said. All of the cuts bring Georgia's budget back to 2005 levels, although the state's population has grown by 1 million people since then.

When Dr. Bedden was asked how he would absorb the cuts, he shrugged his shoulders.

Faced with only a $1 million shortfall last week, the superintendent said he would rely on a "combination of things to spread the pain," including layoffs, furloughs and charging fees for services.

School board President Marion Barnes said that, in his combined 48 years as an educator and board member, these are the worst financial times he has experienced.

"We're going to have to go back to the drawing board," Mr. Barnes said. "Hopefully, we won't have to eliminate any employees."

One school position, however, is safe. The board unanimously approved spending $120,000 to extend its contract with Voss & Associates, the public relations firm that provides a public information officer to the school system.

Shortly after Dr. Bedden updated the board on the latest budget shortfall, the board approved extending the contract.

"I've always looked at an information person as a necessity," Mr. Barnes said. "I'm hoping they can help us sell what we're doing."

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

Comments (42) Add comment
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Serioun
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Serioun 07/22/09 - 11:53 am
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Conservative, you should also

Conservative, you should also add ancient to your name, because it also describes your thought process. We are not trying to go backwards, but in Georgia it is a struggle to just stay even. The cuts you suggested (which i agree with); Convocation cut and PR cut would say less that $200,000 a year, which barely make a dent in the deficit. No need to keep teachers who retire from coming back, there is where we have the most experience and knowledge and they have the capability to mentor. You do know school is about Knowledge. Oh in Asia (one of the more advanced school system according to their test scores) children go to school 5 days a week year round (i.e they spend more time in school with intermittent breaks). No their parents do not pay a surcharge for their books or supplies. Again your suggestions are from those who do not value a good education, probably because you don't have one. So stick with fishing or knitting. That is more your area of expertise. Thanking you in advance.

mystery30815
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mystery30815 07/22/09 - 12:03 pm
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Serioun~ You forgot one

Serioun~ You forgot one important thing. There is a value placed on education in Asia, that is not placed here in particular in Richmond County. Perhaps, if parents had to pay out of their pocked some towards the cost of the education, they would value it more and help ensure their child is successful. Yes, a lot of wisdom can be had from older teachers. However, a lot of them are so out of touch from the students and todays world they can't relate to them and therefore are not able to teach them.

DeborahElliott2
4
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DeborahElliott2 07/22/09 - 02:09 pm
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Since we all like to post,

Since we all like to post, why not make mentions of this to our senators? I mean, after all, they got us in this economic mess, they need to come up with a shortfall of their own to make amends! Tell them to make some pay cuts so that our shortfall will be returned. Everyone has to pitch in, why are they so dang different?

vascar
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vascar 07/22/09 - 02:10 pm
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There is still plenty of fat

There is still plenty of fat to cut without adversely affecting education. Bedden, get out your knife and start slicing, that's why we, the TAXPAYERS, pay you the big bucks!

RichmondCountyResident1
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RichmondCountyResident1 07/22/09 - 03:56 pm
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It's sad, we are going

It's sad, we are going through all of this, to keep from raising taxes by a little over eight dollars or about the price of a good meal out. You see, it's this kind of poverty thinking that's killing Richmond County.Would an extra $8 for school kill us?Some you guys are such small thinkers. I'll bet your income matches your rhetoric.

vascar
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vascar 07/22/09 - 04:21 pm
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I think yours does, rcr.

I think yours does, rcr. That's 8 bucks on 100k. You live in a house worth less than 100k with all that money you claim to make? I don't think anybody is complaining about 8 bucks. I think they want to see the fat cut first.

lifelongresidient
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lifelongresidient 07/22/09 - 04:26 pm
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stop building athletic

stop building athletic venues, especially for high school that do not meet ayp or have graduation rates over 65%....

lowellbrown
4
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lowellbrown 07/22/09 - 04:41 pm
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RichmondCountyResident, you

RichmondCountyResident, you are so right. I am a retiree whose house has been assessed at a far lower resale value than its tax assessment. I hope this is a temporary situation. Still, I wouldn't mind paying an extra 20 bucks a year in school taxes. That will pay for a meal, plus tip, for my wife and me at a meat-and-three or a barbecue joint. Most of these gripes about wasting money in education are BS excuses for not wanting to spend any money to drag this county out of the mediocrity in which it is mired.

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 07/22/09 - 04:42 pm
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(J)ack, you obviously need to

(J)ack, you obviously need to learn a lot about capitalization in the English language, about the courage of one's convictions, and about the history of state expenditures over the six years of Perdue's "administration."

soonewouldthink
0
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soonewouldthink 07/22/09 - 04:49 pm
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I am a teacher - a rather new

I am a teacher - a rather new teacher - but I agree with RCR - my children are grown and out of the school system - but I feel that the current and past property tax dollars I pay/paid toward my/our children's education is assuring that I will have invested in upcoming productive citizens who will likewise work and invest in the upcoming generations. Pass it on people...you can't take your money with you. I do support Dr. Bedden. He and superintendents across this nation have a daunting task before them.

vascar
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vascar 07/22/09 - 04:50 pm
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Lowell, cut the fat--then if

Lowell, cut the fat--then if there is a shortfall, I will be the first to step up and I have no kids in the school system! By the way, move out of Harrisburg!

vascar
1
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vascar 07/22/09 - 05:17 pm
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soon, lover your screen name,

soon, lover your screen name, and you teach?? somehow, kinda doubt that statement!

The Ode
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The Ode 07/22/09 - 05:56 pm
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Citizens in the area have

Citizens in the area have been paying alot of money towards education for decades. What is there to show for it?

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