DCSS budget in $6 M hole

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga. -- Dougherty County School System Executive Director of Operations and Business Services Robert Lloyd had qualified that all the figures he was about to deliver were provisional since Gov. Sonny Perdue hadn't approved the state budget yet.

When Lloyd told the Dougherty County Board of Education's Finance Committee that the school system had a budget shortfall of $6 million, however, it didn't cause much concern among committee members David Maschke, Anita Williams-Brown and James Bush at Friday morning's meeting.

"It's not surprising to any of the board members because the state has steadily projected that revenues would be cut and we're also aware that local revenues are down," Maschke said of the Dougherty County tax digest being down 7 percent. Lloyd said that is a $1.5 million impact to the school system's finances.

"These are serious issues that the board and school system are going to work on to bring to a satisfactory conclusion," Maschke said.

Lloyd said the school system's budget of $120.5 million must be balanced in the next 6 1/2 weeks before the Fiscal Year 2011 budget starts July 1.

"The bottom line is, as we stand currently, we are over budget by about $6 million," Lloyd said. "We'll explain (how we plan to address) that at the next board meeting (on May 26 at the Administration Building)."

Not replacing 11 teachers was one of the options that Lloyd discussed shortly after his shortfall announcement. However, Lloyd did note that the school system doesn't plan to lay off any of its more than 2,100 employees, which includes more than 1,100 teachers. Currently, 90 percent of the DCSS budget goes toward paying personnel.

"We're trying to maintain everyone ... but won't replace people who are leaving," he said. "We'll send some (teachers) down to lower grades in order to keep them."

Maschke pointed out that the school system had a $6 million budget shortfall last year and managed to get through the situation.

"It was a combination of things," he said. "We offered an early retirement package, some positions were not filled, some expenses in various departments were cut and we were fortunate that we got some stimulus money that offset some of the financial issues at that time. This year, the cuts are going to be more difficult, so the challenge is even greater."

Earlier in the meeting, Lloyd told the Finance Committee that the school system's aging bus fleet of 155 buses ranging from 48-, 66-, 84-passengers is contributing to the funding shortfall. Whatley also noted that the problem has been made worse by the state "severely" cutting the school system's transportation funding over the years.

Although some of the buses are as old as 1991 models, Lloyd said there are no plans to purchase new buses for the next two years. The school system employs about 125 bus drivers.

In December, Lloyd told the Board of Education that the school system's transportation budget was up $97,189 due to more students riding buses to school.

Williams-Brown suggested looking into "bidding out bus maintenance." She also wanted Lloyd to check into possibly using the Albany Transit System as an alternative cost-saving measure for transporting students. She said she had heard of other cities using similar programs successfully. She suggested providing students with a token to pay for their fare.

"I'd like to see if you could check it out, if you've got the spare time," she said to Lloyd.

"What's spare time?" Lloyd joked. "I'll look into it."

The Albany Transit System, which services only city routes, has a fleet of 18 mid-size buses.

Maschke said that Lloyd advised Superintendent-select Joshua Murfree to Friday's meeting.