DCSS tight budget to include furloughs - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

DCSS tight budget to include furloughs

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  The Dougherty County School System could have to cut as much as $8 million from next school year's budget.

That could mean vacated positions won't be filled and teachers could have to take more furlough days. School system leaders say must find ways to balance the budget without raising taxes.

All staff must be offered a contract by Friday, that's part of what the school board will be discussing. They're also talking about Dr. Joshua Murfree's contract, both sides are still negotiating and the board will need to take Monday's offer back to Murfree. Graduation is less than two weeks away, closing out another school year.

The Dougherty Schools finance director is feverishly working to get a budget ready before the June 30th deadline.

"It changes everyday," said DCSS Finance Director Robert Lloyd.

Most recently the gap between school expenditures and income has been eight million dollars. With staff accounting for 90 percent of the budget, class size is under the microscope.

"What we've done is based our class sizes on the maximum class size," said Lloyd.

In grades 4 though 12 that's 30 students per classroom. Retiring teachers may not be replaced in some cases and more furlough days than last year are planned.

"We're also looking at furlough days for staff it's a question of how many, not if," said Lloyd.

Bus replacement funds have been totally withdrawn, a big expense for schools, and Dougherty County's seen 11 million in austerity cuts. School officials say the community can't stomach a millage increase. Some parents worry how the cuts will sit with teachers and affect their students.

"I believe they're not compensated for what they really do and I worry about how many teachers are going to stay and how many are going to transfer to another sector of the state," said Courtney Conlan, a parent.

"Education is important and it should be taken seriously," added Demetria Thrower.

While this year's budget promises to be tight, next year could be even worse if the economy doesn't improve and stimulus funds are ended. School officials hope to get a little more leniency from the state later this week.

The State Board of Education meets on Wednesday over class size issues, and the length of the school year. Because of that the school board could postpone a vote on staff contracts tonight and hold a special meeting later in the week.

The School Board finance committee is expected to address the shortfall at their next meeting and make recommendation to the full board on what more may need to be cut.

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