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Baker County teachers to get pay deferment

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

NEWTON, Ga. -- As a result of the Baker County School System receiving a combined $800,000 cut last year from the state and local revenue, Superintendent Tommy Rogers said he told the district's 27 teachers they would be receiving a 30 percent deferment in their salaries starting in September and ending in November.

"The meeting (Thursday) went very well with the teachers because teachers are more concerned with the students and their welfare and teaching them than they are other things," Rogers said. "They're willing to make sacrifices for the students and to make things work for the school system. The population, as a whole, sometimes does not understand the dedication of teachers and their commitment to education and that commitment is strong.

"Therefore they understand when we're in a bind and what we have to do and that we all have to make sacrifices sometimes. Like me, I do not place blame for the shortfall of money on anyone. We just have to make it work and find a way because we do not have any other options."

To help teachers who can't afford to lose 30 percent of their salary during those three months, Rogers said he has put up $80,000 of his own money that he will loan to individual teachers to help them through the stretch. Rogers pointed out that teachers are not obligated to take him up on his loan offer.

"Teachers have until about Sept. 15 to make a decision," the retiring superintendent of 23 years said. "I wanted to give them advance warning on where we were. I'm just trying to make the school work. I'm in a financial crisis and I'm trying to help them. I'm the superintendent and I'm supposed to make it work."

Rogers said he was unaware that any teacher was "insulted," as was contended in an e-mail The Albany Herald received today. The Herald could not verify whether the e-mail was from a teacher as it purported to be.

"If anyone is insulted they didn't indicate that," he said.

Teachers will still be paid for 180 days that they are contracted to work, Rogers said. Teachers have the option of either working the district's regular calendar or instituting furlough days during the fall.

"If they choose the furlough days, they won't make that money until they work those days in the summer," Rogers explained. "If they work the regular calendar, in December they will be reimbursed for that 30 percent that was deferred in September, October and November. The teachers will not lose any money; they will get paid their full contract 180-day payment, but the arrangement is changed."

Although the Baker County School System begins its 2010-11 school year Sept. 1, its Board of Education has yet to pass its Fiscal Year 2011 budget. Because the board didn't pass a budget by July 1, they have passed monthly budget resolutions last two months. Rogers said no plans had been set as of late Friday afternoon for the Board of Education to meet next week in order to approve the FY '11 budget.

At Tuesday's meeting, Rogers presented board members with four budget proposals, which came in at $3,059,253 -- $1,022,817 less than last year's $4,082,070 budget. The amount of reserves remaining and the millage rates are two of the key differences between the proposals for the district which had 420 students enrolled last year, but only has 326 enrolled thus far for the upcoming school year.

The first proposal has a negative $238,439 left in reserves at a millage rate of 12.889. The second has negative $233,220 in reserve and a 12.920 millage rate. The third has $43,690 in reserve and a 14.889 millage rate. The fourth has $325,820 in reserve and a 16.889 millage rate.

"This group of folks that we have on the board want to do a good job and I think that they will; they have good hearts and they want to do what's right," he said. "We just have to go forward and see where we are. We'll get something done, and we'll advertise it. If we have to raise taxes, we'll have a public meeting and at that meeting people will get to say something about it."

Because the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is still working on the July 26 rape of a high school girl attending summer school in the school's media center, Rogers said he couldn't officially comment on the case, but did he say he still believed the K-12 school remains secure.

"It's my belief that the school is safe," he said. "We have cameras around the school and we have adequate supervision around the school."