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Board of Education explains balanced budget to school system employees

Sometimes, bad news is good. With the dismal economy, many McDuffie County School System employees evidently were worried about keeping their jobs. So, even though they are receiving a slight pay cut, the 700 employees of the McDuffie County School System cheered and applauded as they learned the details of the next fiscal year's budget.

A system-wide mandatory meeting was held Tuesday morning in the Thomson High School auditorium. Members of the Board of Education held numerous budget work sessions with Comptroller Tom Smalley, Superintendent Mark Petersen, Accountant Jay James and Assistant Superintendents Barry O'Neill and Jim Franklin and managed to cut the FY2010 budget by $3,088,551 over the previous year's budget.

The board members also attended the meeting with the employees Tuesday morning. As Dr. Petersen opened the meeting, he described how neighboring counties are dealing with their budgets in terms of job cuts or going in the deficit.

"We are not one of these systems," he said as the auditorium resounded with applause. "We had three goals: keep all our people employed, no tax increase and keep our fund balance. We have met every one of these goals."

Dr. Petersen explained expenditure cuts made by each department, attrition and pay raise freezes, the restrictions of stimulus funds and pay scales. And although no one will lose their job, next year will include either furloughs or pay cuts for all employees.

A groan spread throughout the audience as the superintendent explained that all certified employees would receive a $750 reduction of their local supplement annual pay, divided over a 12-month period. Dr. Petersen said this would average approximately $62 per month per certified employee.

All central office administrators and non-certified, 12-month employees will take a three-day furlough, and parapros who are under 190-day contracts will be reduced to 180-days.

There are 39 parapro positions in the system that are non-required, thus non-funded by the state. More cheers and applause came when Dr. Petersen said those positions will be eliminated, reclassified under a new name, and the same employees will be rehired for the new position, allowing their salaries to be paid with stimulus funds.

"I hope we've answered some of those lingering questions that have been out there," Dr. Petersen said as he closed the assembly. "I think it's a good budget and it accomplishes what we need. Thank you for your service to our boys and girls. Even with budget cuts, this has been our most successful year of the five that I've been here."

After following legal procedure of public notice, the Board of Education is set to approve the budget on June 18.

Web posted on Thursday, May 28, 2009

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