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More cuts possible as state lawmakers huddle

The Screven County School Board reached its tentative budget total of $28.8 million Monday evening after loping off nearly $2.7 million – including 22 classroom teaching positions – to avoid a tax increase.

While the budget has departmental cuts throughout its operations, school administrators say more cuts may be in the future for the school system after a scheduled session with key top-ranking state lawmakers.

“I don’t think the cuts are done,” Superintendent Whit Myers told board members. “I think we’ve got to wait and see what they say at the state level.”

Myers said the rumors are that state lawmakers have considered furloughing educators up to 10 days or mandating 10 percent more reductions in school budgets statewide.

Estimations locally for the possibility of furloughs would be between $75,000 and $80,000 a day or $750,000 to $800,000 for a full 10 days of furloughs. A 10 percent cut, however, would result in a $1.45 million decrease in the ScrevenCounty school budget.

If it is required that the reduction be a total of 10 percent with the aid of furloughs, the school system would still need to cut an additional $600,000 from the budget.

“The opinion is that those key people are going to come up with the plan,” Myers said. “This is going to be ugly, messy work,” said Myers, who added that a state decision could be made in the next two weeks.

 “I don’t see the economy picking up,” said Lindy Sheppard, school board chairman.

The budget for 2009-2010 is $28,846,717 with a reduction in expenditures of $2,685,782.

The board also approved a “precipitous decline” for its federal stimulus or stabilization dollars for the school year. The “decline” is the ability of the local school district to show that an exceptional or uncontrollable circumstance, such as a natural disaster; or the ability of the local school district to show a precipitous decline (sharp decrease) in state and/or local resources.

The latter part of the decline affects the local school district. The federal money offsets the need to cut more teaching positions.

The tentative budget and precipitous decline documentation both passed 5-1, with Raleigh Cail voting against both measures.

“I don’t like some of the wording in the policy,” Cail said.

Randall Thomas was absent from Monday’s meeting.

The larger reductions in the 2009-2010 school budget from the 2008-2009 budget can be seen in improvement of instructional services and school administration.

The services budget, which includes salaries for assistant superintendent and curriculum director, for 2008-2009 was $608,836. The new budget, however, is $339,627, or a decrease of 44.22 percent. The systemwide special education position has been deleted and the graduation specialists costs have been included in instructional funding.

For school administration, the budget went from $1,682,853 to $1,302,505, a decrease of 22.60 percent. The reduction includes four administrative positions.