Even after closing several schools, the Dougherty County school board will have to dip into reserves to run the system next school year. They passed a budget today that cuts the number of furlough days by one. It also depends on the reserve fund to balance the budget.
Dougherty County school board members unanimously approved the budget for 2013- 2014 school year. While it's a little bigger than last year, it's not ideal. Board member Darrel Ealum said, "This is not a balanced budget, it's a deficit budget because we've got to take several million dollars out of our reserves."
This year the budget sits at more than $121 million, compared to last years $118 million. Ken Dyer, the director of finance says while they are dipping into the reserves, it could be worse. "Even though we're looking into going into our reserves, about $2.8 million, had they not made the decision to close those schools, we'd gone into our reserves with everything else being equal, about five million dollars."
While board members were hoping to eliminate two furlough days, after much discussion they only eliminated one, leaving teachers with a total of five. "One of the main reasons we thought we could not give back the second furlough day is that, we've had tremendous increase in costs on state health care," said board member Carol Tharin.
That state health care cost is costing the Dougherty County school system $1.4 million. "It's a tough call, because our teachers are important. It's important that our children be in the classroom. But we've got to look down the road. It's not just this year, but next year and the next year," Tharin said.
Now the school system also has to pay more than one million dollars for the Albany Early College, which use to be funded with Title I money.
"We've talked about the possibility, if we can take our early college and move it under a present, existing school. Then maybe we can solve some of that million dollar loss," said Darrel Ealum.
Board members are confident that they'll continue to find cost cutting measures to hopefully eliminate another furlough day later on in the year.