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Almost $2.7 million cut from school budget

Faced with the shortage of state funding, the elimination of programs and positions by the school board has reduced the 2009-2010 budget by nearly $2.7 million to avoid a local tax increase.

The school system, fortunately, was not affected by the mandated 25 percent cut in the month of June, Myers said. If the district had been added to that list, the local cuts would have been more severe.

ScrevenCounty instead will use stabilization funds that total $770,714.

The county will have to apply for its share of the funds, Cherri Hinson, school district accountant told board members June 8.

“We did not take another hit like other state government agencies,” said Superintendent Whit Myers.

The stabilization dollars are meant to improve student achievement through school improvement. These one-time dollars are designed to minimize the “funding cliff” that school boards throughout Georgia face.

The stabilization funds can be used to pay salaries to avoid having to lay off teachers and other school employees. ScrevenCounty plans to use the money for that purpose.

The funds cannot be used for maintenance costs, stadiums or other athletic facilities, vehicle purchases, improvement of stand-alone non-educational facilities, or to supplement a “rainy day” fund.

Myers said teachers within the school system are paid with local, state and federal funding. Now the federal stimulus dollars will replace state dollars that were lost by cuts, Myers said.

“They are giving us this money to save jobs,” Hinson said.

“I don’t think we’ve hit bottom,” said Myers, who had spoken with school board chairman Lindy Sheppard about the financial crisis

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Sheppard said. “We haven’t seen the light yet.”

Myers said the next measure from the state could be furloughs for educators.

FY2010 cuts, thus far, for the local school system has hit $2,696,997. That is an overall reduction of 12.12 percent from FY2009.

Looking closer at expenditures, the administration has reduced support services for improvement instruction by 27.41 percent. School administration was cut by 22.49 percent. Instruction was reduced by 13.25 percent.

At ScrevenCountyElementary School, teachers will be shuffled in 2009-2010 to make good use of the available teachers, while the school will have one less administrator. The middle school’s smaller number of teachers will have less planning time, and art and technology classes will not be taught.

At ScrevenCountyHigh School, the school also will have one less administrator and teachers will instruct for an additional class each day as they educate six of seven periods.

The Crossroads alternative school for students with behavior problems now will split the children, based on age, between the middle and high schools.

The PerformanceLearningCenter, a computer-based, credit-hour option for high school students, will be Technology Assisted Program for Success, or TAPS, and taught on site at SCHS.

The school administration has budgeted to receive 97 percent of collections for property taxes in hopes future cuts can be held to a minimum. Myers said that total is “very optimistic” when traditionally the percentage hovers between 90 and 95.

To start a new school year, the board needs to have at least $1.5 million to sustain the operations of the system until property tax revenues come in later in the year.

“We are not projecting a healthy end balance,” said Myers, who estimates the system will be below the $1.5 to begin the 2009-2010 year. “I am not sure we will make that.”

The state already has dipped into its reserves.

“We had a lot of state budget cuts this year,” Myers said. “The government has gone into its ‘rainy day’ fund.”

The “rainy day” fund did have $1.5 billion, but Myers said reports are that the state will be “lucky” to start Fiscal Year 2010 in July with $50 million left.