Board members voted unanimously to amend the district's 2010-2011 school calendar by trimming three school days and two additional staff days. The change will move the school start date from Wednesday, Aug. 4, to Monday, Aug. 9. Employees' are set to lose two more workdays after the school year ends Friday, May 20, 2011, bringing the total effect to their work schedules to five days; the impact of the five lost days' pay would be spread over the entire year.
Superintendent John Harper had initially proposed to board members a calendar reduction of only three school days. Board member Matt Shultz introduced the idea of a five-day cut to stave off the effects off possible additional state funding cuts in the second half of the fiscal year, with other board members agreeing in principle to the idea before Harper amended his proposal to reflect the board's wish.
"What I would like to see us do, whether it's three days or five days, is I would just like us to do it once. People will know what their checks will be and we just don't have to keep messing around with their pay," Shultz said.
Board members and central office staff present at the meting also cited teacher morale and keeping a consistent calendar as factors for cutting the additional days. The cost savings from the two additional cut days also would be beneficial should a bleaker financial picture take shape after the 2011 fiscal year.
Harper following the meeting said the district intends to keep the amended calendar intact even if further state cuts come down the line. "If the state says, 'No, you've got to do seven,' we're going to do five," he said.
Board tentatively OKs
$114.2 million budget
The calendar vote came right after the board's unanimous approval of a tentative fiscal year 2011 general budget of $114,294,021, down from the fiscal year 2010 budget of $119,018,674. The provisional budget is based on several factors, including anticipated state funding -- which Harper said had not been finalized -- and local funding, which like state funding will be coming in lower. Impacting the district will be a property tax digest drop of nearly 5 percent.
"We anticipated a 3-percent drop in the digest. That additional 2-percent dip significantly affected the amount of local revenue we will have available to support next year's budget," Harper said, adding that the financial hit of it will equal more than $2 million.
The tentative budget is based on the district's millage holding steady at 17.9 mills, a rate that has been unchanged since 2007. Harper said the budget also reflects the district's intention to not go up on class sizes over last year's numbers.
Presenting the proposed budget near the top of the meeting was Chief Financial Officer Todd Hooper, but before his presentation, Harper warned board members that the district could be further tested financially beyond the next school year.
"This is the school year [2011-2012] that I believe will be the most horrendous financial year that school systems in Georgia and across the nation will face," he said, citing the disappearance of nearly $1.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and other financial factors.
Hooper said that despite revenue cuts, the proposed budget should allow the district to keep a healthy fund balance, which is used mainly for payroll in the summer months. He said the budget also maintains a robust funding amount dedicated to instruction.
"With respect to what we just went through with cutting, [reductions in force], those types of things, when you look at our instructional line there in FY2011 compared to FY2008, we're still spending more in instruction than we were three years ago given the fact that our funding continues to decline," Hooper said, adding that more than $80 million is dedicated to that area. He cited utilization of federal funds, unfilled vacant positions in non-teaching areas and cuts in other departments as factors keeping instruction funded.
A final 2011 budget is expected to be considered for adoption at a Monday, June 28, called board meeting.
The board's next scheduled meeting is its monthly work session Monday, June 14, at 6 p.m. in the central office boardroom. The monthly business session is scheduled for June 21 at the same start time and location.