Struggling to balance school budgets - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Struggling to balance school budgets

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By Wainwright Jeffers - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - School systems all over South Georgia are struggling to balance budgets for next school year.

The Mitchell County School system told us everything is under consideration to save money, including getting rid of some teachers and important programs.

 With the state collecting less tax revenue, many school boards have to make difficult decisions to balance the books.

"The board left no stone unturned as to what would be more beneficial," Beauford Hicks, Mitchell Co. Schools Superintendent.

In Mitchell County there have been no major changes yet. Beginning last year the board began thinking of adjustments they could make to balance the budget.

"We're looking at copying machines, seeing if we could do without some, and moving students into specific areas for the next year," said Hicks.

In addition to doing more with less the school system may have to cut some programs.

"We're worried we may be one of the cuts with one of the school systems we work with right now," said Tara Okon, Director.

Okon is the director of the Southwest Georgia Therapeutic Riding Center in Lee County. They provide therapy for many of the 259 special needs students in Mitchell County.

"They understand if they don't behave on the horse they don't get to ride the next time," said Okon.

The future of that and other programs in the school system could be at risk, the superintendent said they will do what they can to protect them.

"All programs are going to be affected and whatever we have to do to protect them we will do that," said Hicks.

The superintendent the top priority is to maintain educational excellence in Mitchell County, but they must consider not renewing contracts, furloughs and program cuts.

"We're not out of the woods, and we would have to come back to the table again in the future," said Hicks.

Okon said if her program receives grant money, she'll try to work with the school to take the horses to them. So they don't have to pay the bus drivers or spend extra money on getting the students to Lee County.

The Superintendent hopes they'll get enough federal stimulus money to save about 30 positions.

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