"Our whole strategy has been to give you a three-year budget," said Superintendent Howard Hinesley. "If we don't do anything in three years we'll be negative $800,000 by the beginning of the fiscal year in those two years. And you can't operate that way ... And so, as a result of that, we had to make some very difficult decisions that have negatively impacted some of our valuable employees."
Hinesley said teachers and student programs were the two most important items the board wanted to protect in this budget.
"We're going to protect our teachers as long as we possibly can because they're the ones that make a difference in a child's life," he added.
Staff cuts through combining positions and employee attrition are two ways the budget saves funds. Another method was the board's approval of Ashton Staffing of Cartersville as the school system's staffing agency. Ashton will be responsible for hiring new faculty based on a school's criteria.
While the declining state funds and a fluctuating Georgia Lottery intake are affecting this year's budget, insurance costs for all classified employees were at the heart of the cutbacks, according to Hinesley.
Health insurance payments to State Health are increasing by more than $400 per month. Whereas the city school district now pays about $296 on a classified employee every month, after the increase the district will pay nearly $800 per month for each classified employee. It is an increase that Hinesley said the district could not sustain.
While the board was glad they were able to meet a few of their goals with this budget, Hinesley added that everything could change in the next two years if state revenues continue to decline and lead to more budget cuts.
"We could head back to the drawing board next year or the following year," he said.
All school principals were present to read their yearly budgets for their schools. All four came in under-budget with at least $10,000 remaining in their yearly allotments.
The school board also approved a number of bids for maintenance and improvements to the schools, such as roof replacements at Cartersville middle and high schools and gym flooring for Cartersville Primary School.
Cartersville teachers Linda Ferguson, Scott Busby, Omar Nunez and Jennifer Cupp were recognized as the 2012 Teachers of the Year. They will be given awards today during a school board luncheon.