A big ‘if’ looming for local schools

Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:04pm
By: Ben Nelms

As it stands now, and if nothing changes between now and then, the Fayette County School System will end the fiscal year June 30 with a fund balance of approximately $6.87 million. But that’s a big “if,” considering the state of the Georgia economy.

A financial report Dec. 14 by Comptroller Laura Brock to members of the Fayette County Board of Education showed that the July 1, 2009 fund balance of $4.509 million paired with a projected $2.358 million surplus for the current fiscal year would amount to a projected end-of-fiscal-year balance of $6,868,131.

“Overall we’re doing well. The $2.3 million could be used for the state cuts we’re expecting,” Brock said, adding a comment concerning the continuous rumors about upcoming state-imposed cuts. “You hear so many things it’s sometimes better to stop listening.”

Numerous cost-cutting measures across the Fayette system last year enabled the district to end the year June 30 a total of $4.509 million in the black. Paired with continued budget-saving measures this year, provided there are no surprises, the school system should end the year well into the black.

But here’s the rub. Not overlooked by anyone keeping up with the effects of the recession in Georgia is the fact that variables like unemployment and foreclosures are up and tax revenues are down.

That point was made clear by Sen. Mitch Seabaugh in a meeting with Coweta County school teachers a few weeks ago when he presented data from the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office (BEO) showing that revenues statewide in mid-November were down 7.2 percent, a far cry from the 1.95 percent increase in Gov. Sonny Perdue’s initial estimate.

That reality, said Seabaugh, translates into a task for legislators in January when they will have to cut $348 million from the current budget that ends June 30. That figure is in addition to the cuts to various state departments already made this year.

While no one is openly talking about cuts in any specific department, another budget reality is 58.2 percent of the state budget goes for education. And while Fayette teachers took a pay cut hit last school year and school system employees are taking furlough days, the situation for other state employees is generally worse.

The Georgia Dept. of Education under the current budget took a 3 percent hit from legislators, but compared to the other state departments they fared relatively well.

BEO figures showed that the Dept. of Transportation was cut 17.81 percent, the Dept. of Economic Development was cut 16.25 percent and the Dept. of Community Affairs saw a 73.21 percent cut.

Other budget reductions came in the form of an 11.20 percent cut to Veteran’s Services, 14.95 percent to Public Safety, 14.95 percent to the Dept. of Labor, 15.02 percent to the Governor’s office and 10.67 percent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Meanwhile, Georgia State University economist Dr. Rajiv Daiwan recently forecasted an 11 percent state unemployment rate in 2010, a decline in personal income of 1 percent in 2009 and an increase of .04 percent in 2010.

The coming session of the General Assembly that begins in January will tell the tale in terms of nearly $350 million lagging state revenues and how and where legislators will make up the difference.

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Submitted by Emma Bovary on Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:52pm.

If you have a weak stomache, please prepare yourself: The BOE is beginning the process of a new book adoption for English/Language Arts. Sample books are already showing up at high schools for another tremendous and perhaps unnecessary expenditure for Fayette County taxpayers. The books from the last adoption have been in use just seven years. At the time of the adoption the BOE ordered enough books for each high school student to have a book to keep at home and a class set for each classroom. As a result, these books have had much less wear and tear.
People who ask questions have been told that a certain county administrator is the driving force behind this. It is enough to make a person break out in a sweat.
I think that this is another case of really bad timing on the part of the board. Perhaps bus driver and teacher salaries should be restored before the board makes any other decisions that will cost thousands upon thousands of taxpayer dollars. At the very least, a sense of trust needs to be restored.

Submitted by g8trgrl on Thu, 12/17/2009 - 7:19am.

There is a rumor going around the highschools indicating there will be a longer day next year for the highschool kids. I am wondering how this can be done without an increase in teacher pay. The calendar committee now formed is working on this. I am also wondering how this will work with the buses being needed immediately after getting the high school kids home for middle school kids??

Where will the time be found for the longer day? Can anyone confirm or dispel this rumor?

Submitted by wildcat on Thu, 12/17/2009 - 4:36pm.

What I have heard is that the hours that teachers work will not change; the time frame for each class will be lengthened or an additional class will be added to the schedule. I suspect that the negative impacts to this will be that before/after school parent conferences will be much shorter and before/after school study/help sessions with teachers will be much shorter. I'm not sure how the bus rides will be handled. When my older children were in school (back in the mid-late 90s) the middle and high school kids rode together. Perhaps the county will resort back to that? Who knows.

Git Real's picture
Submitted by Git Real on Thu, 12/17/2009 - 7:52am.

When we can actually afford to pay them more. Thank God they still have their jobs and benefits. They far exceed many of the jobs out there in the private sector. At this point in time in our economy one might consider tempering their outrage regarding Teacher Pay and instead focus on being thankful that you aren't part of the near 20% unemployed. I'm certain there are many who do not feel their pain.

And that's all I"m going to say about that. Shocked

CAP AND TRADE Congress in 2010

aliquando's picture
Submitted by aliquando on Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:22am.

Why do we not redirect spending. Let us stop road projects that few wanted. Let us stop school technology upgrades that could have been put off. Keep the teacher student relationship solid. A good teacher can teach from a whiteboard, or even G_d forbid a blackboard. Teaching can be done without the latest technology. Fully fund law enforcement first! Then do education. Cut the rest. Make tough choices just like the rest of us!

Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:25pm.

The state is in that "between the rock and a hard space" position again. The cuts are coming.

Candidate for governor, Jerry Keen, actually wanted to do away with property taxes for schools and make sales taxes the revenue stream. Thank God no one listened to him.

At least the FCBOE is finally acting like they are trying to create some type of reserve. Although they know the cuts are coming, keep in mind the Board still cannot fund toilet paper and paper towels for the school restrooms.

The situation is dim.

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:58am.

I was beginning to wonder if anyone realized what is yet to come as to the recession.

Everyone is however "circling the wagons." "Don't cut me!"

However the municipal income is gathered, either by property tax, sales tax, state contributions, federal grants, and fees, they must cut to live within the income.

It also shouldn't be done deliberately with fees and fines.

If PTC can only afford 10 cops, 10 firemen, five in city hall, and no grass cutters---then so be it.
Contributions welcome!

I remember once before the Mayor and other town rich dudes chipping in for necessities!

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