School budget hearings attract a group of four

Photo by Ricki Barker

Photo by Ricki Barker

ALBANY, Ga. -- Although the public hearings attracted only four community members combined at the noon and evening meetings, Dougherty County School System faculty used the event to voice concerns Wednesday evening at the Administration Building.

Teacher Denise Cooper, paraprofessional Eartha Lockette and counselor Felicia Hawkins asked DCSS Executive Director of Operations and Business Services Robert Lloyd about the 10 furlough days and the school calendar.

Lloyd was presenting to the public the school system's tentative Fiscal Year 2011 budget of $114,834,558 in general funds and $187,082,386 in total expenditures. The budget difference for a balanced budget for the FY 2011 budget has been trimmed to just $13,318 after Lloyd had announced that the school system was looking at a tentative budget shortfall of $6.2 million on May 14.

"We will deliver a balanced budget (by Wednesday's board meeting)," Lloyd said.

Cooper wondered how the proposed 10 furlough days wouldn't affect students.

"I'm a teacher. What kind of furlough days are we counting here?" she asked Lloyd.

Lloyd said that three of the 10 days will be in-class teaching days, two pre-planning and one post-planning day. The school system has reduced the instructional day for students from 180 to 177 days and has implemented a 10-day (unpaid) reduction in the work schedule for employees, which doesn't affect extended-day, child nutrition, bus drivers and part-time custodians.

Public Information Director R.D. Harter said that most of the furlough days also will fall near already scheduled days off, such as holidays or spring break. However, he did note that the 2010-11 school year calendar that was approved by the Board of Education in May and which has been posted online will likely change since it was approved before the budget shortfall cuts.

"These are not usual times," Harter said. "There's just no money. Public universities and colleges can raise tuition for more funds, but we can't do that. The gravity of the situation is seen by the state changing the school year from 180 days to 177 days."

Board member James Bush told Cooper that he planned to take up Chairman David Maschke proposed pay cut for monthly compensation for board members by 20 percent from $250 to $200. Bush and Chairman David Maschke were the only board members to attend the two public meetings, which Maschke explained weren't mandatory for board members.

"I don't have the appetite to raise more taxes and, unfortunately, we have to live within our budget," Bush said to Cooper. "People think it's a blessing to have a job."

Lloyd later added possibly even worse news about future Dougherty County School System spending plans.

"If you think next year is bad, the following could be even worse because the stimulus money will run out," he said.

Hawkins asked if the school system could schedule taking the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests before spring break rather than after since students have trouble focusing and remembering pertinent material after the weeklong break.

Harter explained that such a request may not be possible considering the state has a two-week window in which school systems are required to conduct the test, which is used as part of state and federal accountability guidelines such as No Child Left Behind.