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Local teachers furloughed 3 days; BOE budget cut another 3 percent

The Screven County Board of Education has a called session planned for July 31 at 7:30 a.m. at Screven County BOE office to adopt its budget for the 2009-2010 school year.
But a decision made Tuesday Gov. Sonny Perdue and other key state lawmakers has put a wrinkle in that process.
The local BOE, who cut nearly $2.7 million in personnel and programs to avoid raising taxes, now face another 3 percent state-mandated reduction.
ScrevenCounty teachers also will take three furlough days to help ease county and state expenditures.
Perdue said that he and legislative leaders formed a plan to combat a nearly $900 million deficit in the 2010 state budget. Most state agencies will face an average 5 percent budget cut, although some could be higher, while others may be lower, the governor said.
Every state employee — school systems included — also will face an additional three furlough days, Perdue said. Although the governor cannot legally order teachers to take furloughs, because of their contracts, Perdue encouraged district leaders to work with their faculties to find a way to make it work. Each day the state’s teachers are not paid saves $33 million, state budget officials said.
“We had a phone conference with the governor,” said Screven County Schools Superintendent Whit Myers. “He told us all state personnel would be affected.”
Myers said the local school system has selected three days for the teacher furloughs. Two of them will come immediately.
Teachers, who would have their first day of preplanning for the 2009-2010 school year July 27, instead will take a furlough day that Monday and the next day of Tuesday, July 28. The educators’ first day of preplanning will be Wednesday, July 29.
That reduction in pre-planning days may crimp some teachers’ preparation for the upcoming school year as three orientations are scheduled the evening of July 30 and the open house for all the schools will be July 31.
On July 30, pre-kindergarten orientation will be from 5 to 6 p.m.; sixth grade orientation from 5 to 7 p.m.; and ninth grade orientation from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The open house for the remainder of students will be July 31 from 8 a.m. to noon.
Myers said Dec. 18 will be third day of furlough for the teachers.
The administration, Myers said, will review the school budget and individual departments to assess the additional 3 percent cut in expenses.
The furloughs and percentage cut will save the local school district approximately $700,000, Myers said.
Myers said Perdue told local officials that the three furlough days and 3 percent cut are what is needed for now.
More furlough days and cuts, depending on the economy, could occur before the conclusion of the school year, Myers said.
State Sen. Jack Hill, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the 2010 budget shortfall could eventually reach $1.5 billion, meaning another $600 million in cuts could be likely before the end of the fiscal year June 30, 2010.
Bert Brantley, Perdue’s spokesman, said the governor does not 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, 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.
The Screven County School Board reached its tentative budget total of $28.8 million after knocking off nearly $2.7 million – including 22 classroom teaching positions – to avoid a tax increase.
At the school board’s meeting earlier this month, Myers said the rumors were 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 have been 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.
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 larger reductions in the 2009-2010 school budget from the 2008-2009 budget can be seen in improvement of instructional services and school administration.

— Wire services contributed to this article.