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School board hoping to get better budget news
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Effingham County Board of Education members continued discussing Wednesday afternoon the budget for fiscal year 2011, which is drafted to balance by cutting $4.6 million in expenditures.

The draft budget accounts for $9,655,010 in austerity and other state reductions, which brings a burden of more than $31 million in state reductions in the system since 2003. The board found some solace in the last month in property tax revenue, which maintained its 15.33 mills, and in expected equalization grant funding, which was higher than surmised in April.

However, the budget is still subject to change as Gov. Sonny Perdue has yet to sign some of the state funds, including equalization grants into law.

The $4.6 million in savings will include 29 elementary, middle and high school positions lost through attrition and the 50 percent reduction in public library funding to $180,000. As decided in previous meetings, employees will receive five days pay reduction from the calendar, there will be no more graduation coaches and the pre-kindergarten facilities will be closed two years as those students assimilate back into their district elementary schools.

There was $7,200 restored to the extracurricular supplements and positions budget — reductions that were meant to cut one assistant coach supplement from each athletic team in the middle and high schools. It was found that some of the sports were split into two squads, such as tennis, and used two coaches rather than an assistant coach, whose supplement would have been stricken.

The FY2011 budget for the school system will be approved June 24 at the BoE office at 7 p.m. If passed, the system expects to have $10,236 of excess revenue over expenditures.

While Effingham County schools have had a difficult time over the past few years with the recession and drastic state funding cuts, the situation is not as severe as other systems in the state.

As an example, the Cobb County Board of Education — a system of over 100,000 students — cut 734 of its 15,200 employees, including 579 teachers, and faced a $126.7 million deficit, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In Chatham County, the proposed school board budget cuts 132 positions and raises property taxes by 1 mill. But Chatham school board members have yet to adopt their final budget.

In the meantime, the Effingham school board still needs to collect $2.3 million in taxes from FY 2010, with a decline in ad valorem property taxes collected in April and May.

With all revenue included and expenditures subtracted, the BoE general fund has experienced a loss of $76,366, which is better than the $1,124,475 loss in April 2009. 

“This shows that we have saved money over the course of a year, and we are in better shape this year than we were last year,” said Effingham Superintendent Randy Shearouse.

However, anything sent to the BoE from the county that was sent to them in June will count for the school board’s FY 2010 collections.