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School board sets furlough days for teachers, staff after latest state cut

In a deja vu of last year, school board members recently finalized their budget for the upcoming school year, only to receive a notice from Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue that the state was cutting 3 percent of their revenue a few weeks later.

"I know once you got your budget through, it was a big sigh of relief, and then you got your rug pulled out from under you," Superintendent Jim LeBrun told McDuffie County Board of Education members at a called meeting Tuesday morning.

The call from the governor issued a 3 percent cut across the board in Quality Basic Education funds from the state and a mandatory three-day furlough for all certified employees. The total revenue loss to McDuffie County will be approximately $843,000, Mr. LeBrun said.

"What a way to end the hiring season and the new teacher orientation week than to hear we have to cut another $800,000," Mr. LeBrun said during the meeting. "It's not surprising news."

Mr. LeBrun said his staff is "looking over every option and turning over every stone" to find ways to cut the budget without implementing a millage rate increase, adding that they were looking at finding at least $600,000 to get them back to where they were a week ago. But they would remain committed not to increase millage rates.

"We are very cognizant of the hardship this puts on the tax payers," he said.

To make their previous budget without any layoffs, the board implemented a three-day furlough for all non-certified employees and a $750 supplemental reduction in annual pay for all certified employees.

Because the governor's latest cut implements a three-day furlough to the certified employees, the board agreed to "make things equal across the board," and implement a $750 supplemental reduction in annual pay to those previously furloughed.

Mr. LeBrun said they are also looking at creative scheduling to eliminate the need for substitute teachers, which cost the school system more than $480,000 last year. Instead, they will use teachers with more than one planning period and support personnel.

"I just wonder when this stuff will ever stop," Board member Dexter Lovins said. "It just gets worse and worse as time goes on."

Another option discussed, but not voted on, was the possibility of opening enrollment to non-county residents, and charging tuition. Comptroller Tom Smalley said it costs $2,519 of local funds to educate one student for the year.

"It's just something to think about because we already have the teachers and we already have the classrooms in place," Mr. LeBrun said.

Right before their vote, Assistant Superintendent Jim Franklin suggested that the bus drivers had one day that was previously scheduled as a training day, but it was not required by the state. He said that day, which is in January, could be used as a furlough for bus drivers, thus saving the system more money.

"Thank you, Dr. Franklin," Mr. LeBrun said. "That shows our entire staff has been working to find money where ever they can."

The board voted and approved unanimously the $750 annual reduction for non-certified employees, the dates of the teacher's three-day furlough, the one day furlough for bus drivers and replacing substitute teachers with regular teachers.

The three-day teacher furloughs will be Aug. 3 and Oct. 12, 2009, and Jan. 4, 2010. The student instructional calendar is not affected by these furlough dates. Mr. LeBrun said they may have to "come back to the table" and implement more furlough days in the second semester.

Web posted on Thursday, July 30, 2009

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