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School board limits cuts to two spots
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Receiving diminishing state and local funding and facing a budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year, the Effingham County Board of Education is looking to save money where it can.

The school board voted at a called meeting Friday to cut two teaching positions – one high school social studies teacher and one middle/elementary school choral music teacher.

“It’s not the best thing to have to do, but it’s a necessity,” said school board chairman Lamar Allen.

The reductions will save the school system approximately $100,000 in salary and benefits, according to Superintendent Randy Shearouse.

“During these difficult budget times, we’re trying to move to a more efficient school system,” he said.

Shearouse said a social studies position was cut because attrition already has occurred in other academic subjects through teachers retiring or leaving for other school districts. He added that the choral music position “can be absorbed without having that employee.”

“The (music) program is still going to be there,” Shearouse said. “We just don’t have enough students taking the program to warrant the position.”

Citing the Effingham County Board of Education’s reduction in force policy, Shearouse said the two job cuts were “based on overall job performance and/or tenure status of existing teachers in those positions as determined by the Superintendent.”

A called meeting was necessary because state law requires school district employees to be notified by May 15 that they will not be brought back year, Shearouse said. The school district’s next regularly scheduled meeting is May 17.

Cutting two teaching positions may seem like a drop in the bucket for a school system projecting a $2.6 million deficit next year. However, the school board expects to make up for that shortfall with about $3 million in surplus funds when the current Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education (E-SPLOST) expires on June 30.

The school district has decreased its payroll for employee salaries and benefits by $1.5 million while reducing its workforce from 1,740 in 2009 to 1,591 this year. Along with not filling some vacant teaching positions, Shearouse said cost-cutting measures have included increasing class sizes and cutting some central office positions.

The school board hopes to have the fiscal year 2013 budget finalized by July 1.

Since the board of education does not anticipate a tax increase for next year, it is not required to host any public hearings on the budget. However, the public is invited to comment on the budget at the school board meetings at 7 p.m. on May 17 and June 21.