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BOE cuts budget for 2010

The budget cuts passed down to the Decatur County Board of Education from the State of Georgia has caused some head scratching and restless nights for system Superintendent Ralph Jones and system Chief Financial Officer Tim Matthews.

In middle of the current fiscal year, the state reduced K-12 funding by $374 million and has already reduced the 2010 K-12 funding by $654 million.

Decatur County’s share of the reductions total $2.7 million in the 2009 budget year and $2 million in the 2010 budget year. These cuts are in addition to the nearly $6 million in reductions from the state since 2002.

With revenue projections down, a budget imbalance by up to $3 million was projected for the 2010 fiscal year.

“Two or three weeks ago, Tim and I were sitting around a table scratching our head saying, ‘We don’t know what we’re going to do,’ we had cut and cut, but couldn’t make it work,” Jones explained to the board.

“The big thing was how we were going to address the budget with the least impact to our overall programs, without going into the programs that could have been on the chopping block.” Jones continued. “We also wanted to have the highest level of support among our staff.”

But through diligence and creative thinking, and the inclusion of $1.5 million in federal stimulus money, the system’s proposed general fund budget now only shows a deficit of $560,000.  The reduction of the gap was achieved without asking a single employee to leave the system.

“I must commend our team for all working together, there’s been no complaints. The whole focus was how do we get a balanced budget without cutting programs that will impact the education of our children and how do we save jobs, how do we not have to lay off anybody. And we succeeded in that,” said Matthews.

The reorganization of the system’s schools, including the closure of Lillian E Williams Elementary School, was a “God send, it couldn’t have happened at a better time” according to Jones.

This project, combined with normal attrition, will allow the system to decrease it employee count by 28 positions. In addition, the stimulus money will fund another 22 positions that otherwise would have been funded from the general fund.

The proposed general fund fiscal year 2010 budget includes expense of $39,417,000, which is $2.6 million, or 6.33 percent, down from the prior year. The projected revenue is $38,857,000, which is $1.644 million, or 4.06 percent, down from the prior year.

Of the decrease in expenses, salaries and benefits, by far the largest portion of the system’s expenses at 88 percent of the total, will be reduced more than $1.5 million.

Operating expenses will be reduced by more than $1.1 million.

Of the revenue total, 67 percent will be funded by the state allocations, 29 percent will be funded by locally from property taxes, 4 percent will be funded by federal stimulus funds.

The proposed budget must still be voted on by the full board and is not considered final until that happens, most likely at the June meeting.