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School board wrestles with Federal Jobs Fund money
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As they wait for more information for the state, the Effingham County Board of Education continues to weigh its options for spending the $2.1 million allocated from the federal Education Jobs Fund.
The state of Georgia receive $315 million of the $10 billion fund to distribute to its 180 school districts for the purpose of paying school system employee salaries and benefits, with Effingham County receiving $2,131,833. The funds can replace salaries and benefits as well as calendar reduction days.
“Although we don’t have all the details yet, but what we’re anticipating doing at this point is replacing salaries and benefits with this money,” said Effingham Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “So we’ll take that ($2.1 million) and we’ll come up with that in salaries and benefits and replace those monies with that federal money.”
The state Department of Education is asking each district to spend their funds between September and October in hopes of obtaining extra federal funds. The BoE agreed to this at their Aug. 18 meeting, and Shearouse said they intend to accept the federal dollars this month and next for October and November salaries and benefits. 
“So the local and state money that we have left will carry over for whenever we choose to use it,” he said.
The dilemma now facing the school board is when and how to spend the $2.1 million in local and state money freed up by the Education Jobs Fund, as the state urges them to prepare for a 2 or 4 percent state cut at the dawn of 2011.
“As the board knows, we’ve cut a lot of areas already. We just don’t have that many places we can go to add 2 or 4 percent cuts,” Shearouse said.
He explained that funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has run out and would no longer cushion the budget in fiscal year 2012. 
“So I suppose you can consider it a hole that’s going to be in the budget for next year, because that money won’t be there,” Shearouse said, “unless the federal government decides to provide money for that reason.”
In anticipation of these future budgetary strains, Shearouse recommended that the board “proceed very cautiously,” saying that they should save the money.
“I know I would like and the staff would like to do something as far as calendar days, but what we don’t want to happen is for us to give something back and then have to go back and actually take it back later. That’s what we want to try to avoid,” he said.
But some of the board members were concerned that waiting wouldn’t do much to help employees now.
“I hear what you’re saying about the possibility of it, but I hate not to, if we’re going to do something for our people,” said BoE Chairman Lamar Allen. “I hate not to do it when they need it, which is Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said, alluding to a restoration of any of the four furlough days before the holidays of the five in the 2010-11 school year.
Shearouse advised him that changing the calendar at this time would not be prudent in light of the looming state cuts, but if the cuts come off the table, which is a possibility with the November election, then they could reconsider.
“But at this time, I’m just very cautious to spend it,” Shearouse said.
In other business from the Wednesday meeting:
The financial report indicated a slow start with $4.6 million in the general bank account and low July tax and other revenue collections left a $3.3 million expenditure overhang.
The board approved a Yates Astro bid for their pest control service over the same Orkin bid at $40 a site and  $520 a month.
Parents of the 2011 graduating class will be mailed a survey for their thoughts of holding the commencement ceremonies at the Savannah Civic Center. 
The county spelling bee likely will be held at the Career Academy on a Thursday evening, rather than at the BoE auditorium in a morning event.