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BOE shaving budget

The Decatur County Board of Education took the first step Thursday night toward overcoming an estimated $3.9 million shortfall in the 2011 budget.

An estimated 7 percent drop in state and local funding from the 2010 budget has forced the system to seek expense savings.

Anticipated revenues from state and local sources for 2011 total $36.1 million. Total expenditures, if nothing changed from 2010, total $39.98 million, creating the $3.9 million shortage.

The expenditures represent a 1 percent increase, mainly from teacher salary step increases and increases in employee benefit costs.

In an effort to reduce expenses, Superintendent Ralph Jones and Tim Matthews, chief financial officer of the system, presented the board at the specially called meeting with a list of expense reduction options that would total $3.6 million. Even with the deep cuts, the gap would still total $268,231, a large amount of money, but one much easily managed.

Jones indicated that keeping employees working is the main objective.

“Our philosophy is do everything possible to keep people under contract and not have to go to the RIF (reduction in force) policy and have to let teachers go,” Jones said.

Relative to staffing, the 2011 local budget will include 50 less positions in the school system than two years ago. The reduction is a result of the school reorganization, which allowed retiring and relocating teachers not be replaced, and The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding 22 positions the last two years, which will expire after this year.

Included in the federally funded positions are the school nurses and the various academic coaches. Those positions are not funded from state and local funding and elimination of those positions would not help in overcoming the shortfall.

The largest chunk of the $3.6 million in proposed cuts comes from not replacing retiring and relocating teachers.

At present, 20 staff members, 18 certified and two non-certified, have announced their intentions of retiring at the end of the current school year. To save an estimated $1.533 million, those positions would not be filled.

To gain a savings of $767,028, the board voted unanimously to reduce the 2010-2011 school calendar by six days. These six furlough days would equate to a roughly 3 percent reduction in pay for every school system employee. The board will decide at a later date which days will be reduced and whether those would be instructional days, planning days or a combination of both.

A savings of $140,686 would come from increasing class size and eliminating paying teachers extra who teach more than three blocks per day, and an estimated $276,900 in reductions would be realized through yet-to-be-announced retirements and non-renewals based on class room size.

Other proposed cuts include a reduction of the matching contribution to employees’ 403(B) retirement plan from 2 percent to 1 percent at a savings of $190,727, reducing supply budgets by 10 percent to save $188,131, elimination of formal elementary school arts program for a savings of $104,642, and elimination of the Aramark custodial services contract to save $55,161. The high school band will only travel to away football games that are in close proximity of Bainbridge to save $5,000.

A system-wide reduction in supplement pay to employees would save a total of $67,327. Supplemental pay is given to teachers who take on additional responsibilities outside their classroom duties. Most common for athletic coaches, some teachers receive supplemental pay for serving as department heads or lead teachers. Athletic supplements for coaches will be reduced across the board by 10 percent, while all other supplements will be eliminated entirely. Supplemental pay is earned by roughly 5 percent of the county’s teachers.

To realize $16,833 in savings, only bus drivers, the superintendent and the high school principal will be able to drive system-owned vehicles home. The superintendent and principal are provided vehicles as part of their contracts.

The only proposed reduction item that has been approved is the reduction of the calendar by six days. The remainder of the items could be included in the final 2011 budget, which will not be complete for several more weeks.