More state budget cuts anticipated

ALBANY -- The news wasn't surprising considering the weakened economy of the state and country.

Dougherty County School System Executive Director of Operations and Business Services Robert Lloyd told Finance Committee members that more state cuts could be on the way.

Speaking at Thursday's meeting, Lloyd added that additional cuts may not be necessary.

Citing two sources, Lloyd said he heard from Herbert Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, that Garrett "didn't think there would be more cuts from the Governor's Office." Garrett said that the cuts state school systems made in late July -- which included cutting 3 percent or $191 million from Quality Basic Education funding and mandated three furlough days -- may be sufficient.

Unfortunately, Lloyd heard contradictory information from state Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville. Using numbers from the Senate Budget Office, Hill believes that millions more may need to be cut in state education funding after Christmas.

"We're still planning for the worst and expecting the best," Lloyd said.

Dougherty County already has lost $2.96 million due to the 3 percent cut in state funding and the three furlough days. Lloyd also reported that the school system had $95,413 cut in QBE funding for transportation for Fiscal Year 2010.

"We've made additional savings to offset most of the $2.96 million in reductions that were announced in late July," Lloyd said. "Now, we need to find another $95,000."

At the meeting, the Finance Committee -- made up of Board of Education members David Maschke, Anita Williams-Brown and the Rev. James Bush -- voted unanimously to recommend to the full school board to approve the funding for a new software system for the human resources department.

New Dougherty Human Resources Director Tracy S. Williams explained the need for the Softdocs Doc e Fill Application Tracking system software. Williams stated in her eight-page handout that the software system would reduce by 90 percent the amount of paper used in an average 21.5-day period, thus reducing the time involved in redundant and time-wasting activities. It would also eliminate lost documents and reduce manual errors by 90 percent, she said.

Williams noted that one of the best benefits of the new system is the fact that it would provide instant tracking of 95 percent of administrative functions and tasks, requests and actions to and from human resources for every DCSS employee. The new software would also "create reporting functionality for every process assigned to the system; generation of quantitative and qualitative data to effectively evaluate the HR Department; and upgrade every function to support a paperless environment."

"For every action we do in HR, we create two pieces of paper," said Williams, who was hired in September.

Williams also noted that Dougherty County School System staff members could access the system remotely, but that there would be levels of clearance required to ensure security.

The need for the new software system was further strengthened by Williams through monthly payroll checks that are processed and annual W2 issuance. She said that each of these tasks involved 3,760 individual documents.

"With rough estimates, these minor two functions generate an immediate net savings of $2,361.92 in the first year on a total initial cost of $35,000," she wrote in the handout.

In addition to the $35,000, the school system would also have to pay $4,999 annually for an annual maintenance to Softdocs, a Columbia, S.C., company with more than 500 customers. Over a five-year period, the system would cost $59,995, but could save $151,809.62 in the same time span.

"In paper alone, we would pay for the system and 80 percent of our paperwork per year will be taken away," Williams said.

Lloyd said the cost of the new software system would be paid out of the general fund. To offset that, Lloyd said at the meeting that an additional $93,000 in funds came into the Dougherty County School System after the FY 10 budget was approved as partial reimbursement from federal E-rate funds for the school system's telephone and Internet services.

Maschke asked if other companies were sought out for similar computer software system.

"This is an extension of the current vendor we have without starting over," Lloyd said.

Maschke also questioned if more employees would need to be hired to shift over to the system and Williams said no. After hearing her presentation, the Finance Committee voted 3-0 to recommend it for full board approval.

"I think it's excellent," Williams-Brown said. "I've seen it in a lot of companies. I would feel more secure if we had a system like this."

The board also voted unanimously to recommend for full board approval the selection of using Invest-N-You to be the financial adviser on the supplemental retirement plans for DCSS staff. Lloyd said the Atlanta company works with 21 other Georgia school systems. The vote was timely due to new national Internal Revenue Department of Labor directive that all school systems -- rather than the vendors of the plans -- had to have a planned document in place for staff supplement retirement plans by Dec. 31.

To go with Invest-N-You, Dougherty County staff members will pay $10,000, spread out among employees, through their staff investment plans. The plan will include educating the staff on how they should be structuring their savings for retirement, Lloyd said.

After going over the agenda items, a persistent issue was revived through a discussion item suggested by Williams-Brown. The at-large board member would like the school board to look into hiring an outside consultant to go over the school system's bidding process. She said she wanted to look into the "black and white aspect."

"If you have cities and consultants, you can pass it along," Lloyd said.

"I do and I will," Williams-Brown said.

Bush supported Williams-Brown's consultant idea.

"Minorities are not getting bids, especially the blacks," he said. "Since I've been on this board (starting in 2005), I can't think of blacks being involved in the process. It's not a hard situation, people just need to work together. ... We have every business we need here and yet we get businesses out of town."