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Finances topic of BOE meeting

Much like the typical household during this economic downturn, finances and budgets were a big topic of conversation during the Decatur County Board of Education meeting last Thursday.

But, before the subject matter turned to dollars and cents, the board and attendees were treated to a great rendition of a spring time song by a group of first-grade students from Elcan-King Elementary School.

After the entertainment, Bainbridge High School Principal Tommie Howell recognized several BHS students for outstanding achievements.

Ben Reynolds, a future University of Georgia attendee, was recognized as a National Merit finalist.

The Academic Bowl team, sponsored by Mitch Dilday, stood before the board as the Region 1-AAAA Academic Bowl championship team after competing in Athens, Ga., at the Georgia Academic Team Association tournament.

Led by James Robinson, the BHS Mock Trial Team was the first-place team in the southwest Georgia region and advanced to the state competition in Duluth, Ga.

BHS student Jake Tobin competed in and won at the district and area levels in the American Legion Oratorical contest. Going on to compete at the state level, Tobin finished third.

Superintendent Ralph Jones updated the board on the status of several legislative bills that would have affected education. Jones indicated that the bill that has garnered the most attention, Senate Bill 90, has been defeated during the session that just ended.

SB 90 would have enacted a voucher system within state education. Under this arrangement, parents would have been able to choose where their tax money set aside for education would go, including private schools.

Jones also indicated that the Decatur County system was working hard to weather the current budget cuts and shortfalls without having to layoff teachers.

“We’re trying to hold our own via attrition and the reorganization has helped us with that. Helped us reduce some dollars” Jones said referencing other local systems forced to reduce staff by layoffs.

Currently, 87 percent of the annual education budget for the county goes to salaries and benefits. And with a $2.7 million reduction in state funding this year and a projected $2 million reduction next year, salaries would be a big target for reduction.