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Board passes DCSS budget

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Although the Dougherty County School System's general fund budget for Fiscal Year 2011 still ended with a difference of minus $28,173, the remaining funds will be taken out of the district's $6.5 million reserve balance.

This was the solution that DCSS Executive Director of Operations and Business Services Robert Lloyd told the Board of Education's Finance Committee Wednesday morning at the Administration Building.

"...The staff will continue to work diligently to save where possible by reducing and scrutinizing expenditures," Superintendent Joshua Murfree wrote in his "Executive Summary" explaining the difference in the budget in the 53-page FY 2011 packet Lloyd distributed at the meeting to board members and media outlets. Budget Coordinator Susan Hatcher created the easy-to-follow booklet.

The Finance Committee voted 3-0 to recommend approving the budget to the full board, which then passed the $114.5 million general fund budget through a 6-0 vote. School Board Chairman David Maschke said board member Velvet Riggins didn't attend the 13-minute meeting because she was in the hospital for surgery.

Dougherty County School System officials had cut the budget difference for a balanced budget for the FY 2011 budget to just $13,318 June 15. On May 26, the proposed difference was $613,473 after Lloyd had told the committee it had a tentative budget shortfall of $6.2 million on May 14.

The final budget that was passed Wednesday by the board included 10 furlough days for employees working 180 days or more, possibly changing the class size up to three students in kindergarten through second-grade and adjusting step increases for applicable staff not paid on the state salary schedule.

"The high point is we aren't (going) to layoff any employees," Public Information Director R.D. Harter said.

The budget also included hiring from within whenever possible and eliminating 30 vacant positions. At the June 15 meeting, Maschke asked Lloyd for a list of the positions and Lloyd assured him that he would provide him with one by the next board meeting. Maschke said he didn't receive such a list Wednesday.

Maschke's suggested proposal of board members taking a voluntary 20 percent cut to their monthly compensation from $250 to $200 and travel expense allowance by 50 percent from $3,500 to $1,750 to help with the budget crunch was not adopted by the Finance Committee, which includes Maschke, James Bush and Anita Williams-Brown. The combined savings of the voluntary proposed cuts would've been $16,450.

Bush said he would've liked to implement Maschke's proposal for himself, but "that's totally up to each board member." Maschke asked Williams-Brown if she was ready to make a decision and she said she wasn't at this time.

Bush then said that the General Assembly mandates the pay for board members.

"I know that if you say you want to take 20 percent pay cut, you can," Lloyd said.

"My understanding is that the General Assembly sets it (the pay), but you don't have to accept it," Maschke said.

After the meeting, Maschke said that some county officials took voluntary pay cuts to help with their department budgets, but the school board didn't. He said that two to three board members yearly overspend on their travel budgets, while two or three only use a portion.

"It's embarrassing," Maschke said. "The board should lead by example and the actions speak louder than any excuse. The board has voted that every employee in the school system will take a cut in pay, so the board should also be willing to do the same in support of all the employees."

Possibly helping the Dougherty County School System's budget would be the sale of two pieces of surplus property. Approximately 48.7 acres located on Grave Springs Road and about 27.2 acres located north of Albany Middle School are available.

The special-purpose local-option sales tax proposed capital project budget for the school system for FY 2011 were also included in the budget handout. Dougherty Comprehensive High's renovation is $7 million, Westover's renovation is $5.5 million and Albany High's renovation is $5 million. Carpet replacement is $500,000, transportation is $150,000 and miscellaneous capital projects is $500,000. Technology projects of $1.2 million are also slated for a total SPLOST budget of $20,077,531, including salary and benefits.

The handout also debuted Murfree's new school system slogan of "Beyond All Expectations," which replaces former Superintendent Sally Whatley's "Pursuing Excellence." Wednesday was the last day for Whatley and Deputy Superintendent Carlos Keith. Both were saluted by Murfree and the board during the meeting.

Murfree said after the meeting that he hasn't filled Keith's position yet and plans to fill it "quickly." Murfree is scheduled to talk to the Albany Rotary Club today at noon during its weekly luncheon at Doublegate Country Club.