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School board OKs furloughs, budget cuts
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First day
Classes begin Wednesday for the Effingham County School System’s 2009-10 school year.

7:45 a.m. starts
Blandford Elementary
Marlow Elementary
Rincon Elementary
Sand Hill Elementary
South Effingham Elementary

8:15 a.m. start
Springfield Elementary

8:20 a.m. starts
Guyton Elementary
Ebenezer Middle
South Effingham Middle
Effingham County High

8:25 a.m. starts
Ebenezer Elementary
Effingham County Middle

8:30 a.m. start
South Effingham High

The Effingham County Board of Education approved Aug. 4, Oct. 22 and Dec. 18 to be removed from the employee calendar and budget cuts at a special called meeting Thursday.

Superintendent Randy Shearouse said Gov. Sonny Perdue, in a statewide conference call, requested every school system take three furlough days.

“What he asked was we take those days in the next five months,” Shearouse said. “We felt like most teachers would have things completed by Monday.”

He said the October day comes after two days of parent teacher conferences and the day before a holiday. The third day is the Friday prior to Christmas break.

“One thing we did do for them, and I’m recommending, is that we can split that money up over their entire contract year and not just take it out of the next five months, which they would not notice as much,” Shearouse said. “I think we can front that money because the governor will take it out of our allotment sheet the next five months. We have the capability of spreading that over their entire contract year, which will lessen the burden.”

Shearouse said it was fortunate that the planning days were all planned prior to December.

Board member Eddie Tomberlin asked if there was anything the board could do other than trying to make it as easy as possible. Shearouse said the only thing the board could do is to pay for the days locally.

“With all the cuts we’ve had, we don’t feel like we can afford to pay for those days at this time,” he said.

Board member Troy Alford asked about the options on reducing the furlough days from employee pay.

“Obviously every penny today counts,” he said.

Shearouse thought it would lessen the burden by spreading the reduction out during the course of the entire contract year. He said along with the three days that were discussed during the governor’s conference call, the school systems also were told about an additional 3 percent reduction from the budget.

Shearouse said he went to the schools and spoke with employees.

“I didn’t want to talk about all bad news, and I didn’t. We did talk about some good news, and spirits are high,” he said. “Everyone understands, and they’re accepting this.”

Shearouse shared his good news with board members. The new Effingham County Middle School has received its certificate of occupancy and is ready for students.

“I think it’s important to note that when the final invoices are in and paid, and the last inspections occur and we accept that building, that middle school will be totally paid for, he said.

The new middle school is being paid for out of special purpose local option sales tax receipts and state funds.

Shearouse said the work on the career academy has begun, and that building will also be paid for when it is completed. He said the bond of one mill for South Effingham High, South Effingham Middle and Sand Hill has been retired and will not be on the tax bill this year.

“I think that’s important this year especially,” he said.

Shearouse said Marlow Elementary is the only facility that the system is making payments on, and the system has the possibility of paying the facility off early.

He said the last thing he told teachers is even with the reduction of state funds, the system has not laid off any employees.

“Our commitment is to continue with that,” he said.

Funding, spending cuts

In comparing the 2009 and 2010 allotment sheets, Shearouse pointed out the total state funding for FY09 was nearly $59.4 million. For FY10, it’s $56.1 million. He said of that number more than $2 million is federal funding, and the $56 million does not include the most recent cuts or the teacher furloughs.

Shearouse said the cost of salaries is approximately $350,000 a day. Of the three days in furloughs, the state earned positions are more than $800,000 for three days. Taking the stabilization funds, the school district has had a cut of $8.75 million since last year.

He said he called to check and as of Thursday morning there were 10,876 students registered in the system not including pre-k students. The system has lost more than $800 per child in state funding.

Shearouse said the board took steps last year to reduce spending.

He said the furloughs for locally paid positions will save the system $383,986, and the system still must cut $1,208,046.

“What we tried to do was find areas, even though they’ve been cut already, that would not impact instruction at all,” he said.

Shearouse said even though the bond has been paid, there are still funds coming in, and that money can be used to make a payment on Marlow instead of it coming from the general account.

He said Dr. Slade Helmly came up with $250,000 in maintenance savings.

“That might be a job that we decided to wait on — nothing that’s going to jeopardize safety or instruction, or anything anyone at the school is going to notice,” Shearouse said.

He said cuts were made to transportation in fuel costs and parts that are not needed. The system also will cut $50,000 in funding for field trips.

“What we’re encouraging principals to do with this one is bring the field trip to the school, and the way we can do that is you have petting zoos, for example that are willing to travel to your school,” he said, adding that Georgia Southern University’s Wildlife Education Center makes visits and brings birds and snakes. “We don’t want our kids to miss out, but we felt like this was a way can save money, and bring the activity to the school itself.”

He said this will include extended trips for tournaments that are not required.

Shearouse said the system can cut additional days by not having summer school for middle school students and instead working with those students who need to retake the CRCT prior to the end of the school year.

“What we found out with that was we had a lot more kids who tested again,” he said. “Some of those kids wouldn’t come back for the summer, so that ended up being a positive, and we saved a lot of money by not having to have transportation and extra teachers in the summer.”

He said the system has a $152,000 carryover of funds from last year’s savings.  

Shearouse said he does not want to cut any more days at this time in case the governor cuts more in January.