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Schools looking at a budget crunch
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The bleak news continues for the Bryan County Schools budget, according to figures discussed at a budget workshop held Monday at Carver Elementary.

Interim Superintendent John Oliver and director of finance Melanie James presented budget projections through the end of fiscal year 2010 indicating an estimated budget deficit of $1.5 million at the end of the 2010 fiscal year.

"It’s been a challenging year with the loss of money, and it’s not over yet," James said "We started the year with $1.1 million less (than budgeted), and so far it’s up to an expected loss for 2009 of $6.3 million for all of 2009."

James said, based on the current budget, they could expect to end fiscal year 2010 with a deficit of $1,522,174.

"We can’t carry on business as usual, unfortunately, but we do have a lot of options," she said.

Some of the changes made to cut costs going into the 2010 year include an increase of class sizes by two in grades kindergarten through eighth and reducing 10 teachers. Eight middle school and three high school instructor positions were cut, as well as four graduation coaches, 20 paraprofessional positions from K through fifth, 13 special education para-pros, two school nurse positions and five clerical positions currently vacant.

Added to the budget were one driver’s education para-pro, one bus monitor, one maintenance position and two-and-a-half special education teachers.

"Overall, there are 62 positions we’ve eliminated," James said. "So far, everything has been though attrition, except seven para-pro positions."

"If SPLOST collections increase, we won’t be as tight, but until then we have to be concerned," she said.

James told the board one cut they may want to consider in order to break even in 2010 was to eliminate current year and 2010 capital projects transfers, which would keep $5.5 million in the school system for the two years.

Other options, James said, would be to reduce the number of certified staff workdays, saving approximately $172,000 per day, and increasing the millage rate by one to generate approximately $1.27 million.

According to discussion, the school board hasn’t raised the millage rate since 2002.

The budget, however, could have been worse, were it not for stimulus money coming to the state schools through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Bryan County’s portion of the stimulus was estimated at $1.73 million.

"Mostly we’ll use (the stimulus) for salaries, to save some jobs," Oliver said.

Oliver said another effect of the economy has been to decrease the faculty turn over rate.

"Our staff members are staying put for the most part," he said. "We aren’t turning over like we have in the past. Folks are staying put for economic reasons."

The next step in the process is the line-by-line review of the budget by each board member and decisions based on workshop discussions, working together to determine how to balance the budget.

The schools’ next fiscal year begins July 1.

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