Bryan County 4-H’ers can breathe a lot easier.
Hours after hearing from several of the program’s supporters at Thursday’s school board meeting, the Bryan County Board of Education decided not to cut its $16,500 portion of the program’s funding in an effort to save money.
That was welcome news to Bryan County 4-H Agent Shanna Davis.
She estimated 40 people showed up on short notice to lend their support after word got out the school board was considering stopping its contribution to the program, which is also funded by the Bryan County Commission and University of Georgia Extension Service. Last year, it served some 868 kids during the 2008-2009 school year, Davis said.
"I was overwhelmed by the support shown by past 4-H’ers, volunteers, parents and other community memebers," she said. "I appreciated the board members listening to each comment. It’s amazing to hear how 4-H impacts so many people in so many different ways."
Davis said she understood the BoE’s need to find ways to reduce the budget.
"Bryan County’s BoE has always been very supportive of the program, they were simply looking at every possible cut that could be made," she said. "Fortunately, they realized the versatility of our service and outreach and thought 4-H is worth saving."
Other portions of the school’s $50 million budget didn’t survive, however.
The BoE chopped $790,506 in spending in its latest effort to balance the books while finding an additional $239,000 in revenue. The end result was a tentative budget that projects expenditures of $49.9 million and revenue of $50.1 million -- erasing an earlier shortfall first estimated at roughly $900,000 while adding at least a $100,000 surplus.
Among the largest cuts were $200,000 from eliminating the BoE’s 1 percent match to employees’ 403-B contributions for one year -- BoE members noted few systems offer matches -- and $131,000 through 10 percent cuts in school operating budgets, according to BoE Chief Financial Officer Melanie James. Last year, the schools had money left over, she noted.
The BoE also estimates saving another $120,000 by replacing substitute teachers with parapros at kindergarten through fifth grade schools, $63,000 by cutting parapros from 190 days to 180 days and $50,000 by reducing the estimated cost of staggering bus times.
Cuts were also made from other operation and maintenance budgets covering items such as professional development and transportation. Among the additional anticipated revenues were $100,000 in extra Federal Impact Aid from the military and $75,000 from reserves generated by the system’s Community Education program. Earlier, the BoE decided to seek a millage rate increase of 1.5 mills. There was some discussion of a 2 mill hike Thursday, but school board members decided against it.The BoE’s current millage rate of 13.537 mills is lower than all but approximately 50 of Georgia’s 159 counties, according to the BoE.
In 2007, the latest year for which data was available, Bryan County's combined millage rate of 20.7733 was lower than all but 17 counties, according to the Georgia County Guide.
Interim Superintendent John Oliver said the school system could continue to operate under the tentative budget, and First District BoE member Mary Warnell agreed.
"There was a lot of fluff in that budget," she said, noting Bryan County is still better off than other systems.
"In other systems, teachers are having to take furloughs. That is very common in this state right now."
The BoE also approved Thursday a spending resolution which allows the system to continue spending money to operate for one month while it continues to work on a final budget. And with Gov. Sonny Perdue telling the state to cut an additional 3 percent in July, further cuts could be necessary.
After the tentative budget was approved, BoE Chairman Eddie Warren called it "the hardest budget I’ve ever been a part of."
"As the year progresses, we still have to look at things that may have to be cut and not spend on the things we don’t have to," Warren said. "We need to try to get a leg up on next year, which I think is going to be even tougher."
Read more about the Bryan County BoE next week.