DCSS cuts $6.2 million budget shortfall

ALBANY, Ga. -- In just 12 days since they announced they had a tentative budget shortfall of $6.2 million for Fiscal Year 2011, Dougherty County School System officials said they had slashed the shortfall to $613,473.

DCSS Executive Director of Operations and Business Services Robert Lloyd told the Dougherty County School Board's Finance Committee Wednesday morning that his staff worked long hours to find the cuts and will continue to whittle the shortfall down until it's balanced.

"We'll bring you a balanced budget by June 23," Lloyd said between meetings. "There will be no tax increases."

Budget Coordinator Susan Hatcher prepared a colorful and easy-to-follow handout to Finance Committee members David Maschke, Anita Williams-Brown and James Bush, along with media members, to understand how the tentative budget cuts would be made.

To compensate for the shortfall, the Dougherty County School System will implement the following steps:

- "Employees not paid on the state salary schedule will not receive a Step increase";

- "Reduce the instructional day for students from 180 to 177 days.

DCSS will reduce the instructional day for students by 3. These three days will be used for teacher pre- and post-planning";

- "Implement 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. "One reduced day equates to $425,000 in savings, the total savings would be approximately $4.2 million for the General Fund";

- "Mandatory office closure at Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break (Energy savings). All offices would be closed one week for Thanksgiving, two weeks for Christmas and one week for spring break. Employees affected will use vacation days";

- "Reduced vacant FY 2011 classified positions through attrition and hire internally, when possible";

- "Reduce purchases for the remainder of FY 2010 to increase ending fund balance to offset the FY 2011 budget shortfall";

- "Eliminated FY 2011 vacant certified positions based on current student counts; ensuring allocations are based on student projections. As of May 21, 24 positions have been reduced. It may take several months for the process of displacement and absorption to run its course."

Lloyd said the projected ending fund balance for FY 2011 is $5,235,154. He also reiterated that the handout was "tentative" and that "adjustments are continuing."

Prior to his presentation, Lloyd said that Dougherty County property tax 2010 digest is down 7.66 percent from 2009 digest and that no property tax increase was included in the FY 2011 budget. He also said that the FY 2011 state Quality Basic Education Allotment has been reduced the equivalent of six furlough days.

Dougherty County School System's budget, like many in the state, utilizes 88 percent to 90 percent of its general fund expenses to fund employee salaries and benefits, Lloyd said.

Following his presentation, the Finance Committee recommended the tentative FY 2011 budget 3-0. It was passed 6-0 by the board during the meeting. Bush left early from the meeting to attend to a family matter.

"I think it's imperative to offer thanks to (Superintendent) Dr. (Sally) Whatley and staff for this," Bush said after Lloyd's Finance Committee presentation. "I know some of them worked long nights and weekends."