Gene Black Jr. addressed the Doughtery County School Board during one of two public meetings Thursday to discuss the school system’s $116 million FY 2013 budget. The board will vote on the budget at its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday.
ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County School System Board of Education wrapped up two public hearings on its FY 2013 budget Thursday and heard concerns from citizens ranging from staffing cuts to praise for reducing furlough days.
The BOE will vote on the budget at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday.
The public budget hearings were held at noon and at 6 p.m.
The FY 2013 budget, weighing in at $116 million, was balanced by nearly $6.5 million in cuts from the 2011-12 budget and an infusion of $2.3 million from a reserve fund to make up an $8.8 million shortfall.
The bright spot of the new budget is that staff furloughs have been reduced from 10 to six days for the upcoming school year. The six furlough days make up $3.3 million of the $8.8 million needed to balance the budget. Each "adjusted work day" saves the system approximately $550,000.
At the noon hearing, Westover High School Media Specialist Mertia Dodd urged the board to eventually reconsider reallocating just one media specialist, down from two, per high school.
"There is a sincere concern from parents and staff who are worried about stretching just one person to the limit," said Dodd. "There is no doubt that we need two persons in media specialist positions."
The media specialist reduction is projected to save the system $170,000 over the next school year.
During the evening meeting, retired attorney Gene Black Jr. invoked the sprit of Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Dubois and Albany State University founder Joseph Holley as he chided the board on some of its spending decisions.
"What is important? Education, education, education. That takes money, money, money," said Black. "So can you give me a good reason why we are spending nearly $600,000 to renovate a building at Albany State that was flooded in the '20s and '90s that we don't even own? And why are we spending $700,000 on consultants? Money, money, money.
"This money could be used to cut even more furlough days and spent in the classroom."
Black then challenged the board.
"You serve as the trustees of the dreams of Martin Luther King, W.E.B. Dubois and Joseph Holley," he said. "What would you say to them if they walked through that door right now? We owe a lot to them, and you hold the future of our kids' dreams ... the ones we have right now.
"I urge you to re-examine most of the items on this budget and reprioritize ... and never forget you are the trustees of dreams."
Cindy Neal, a counselor at Merry Acres Middle School, then stepped to the podium.
"It is important to me that we get this (school system) turned around," she said. "We want people to stay here. We want people to want to move here, and we want them to raise families here. It is important that you send a message to this community."
DCSS Public Information Director R.D. Harter took a moment to thank the board members.
"On behalf of the more than 2,400 DCSS employees, I'd like to thank the board for reducing furlough days from 10 to six," said Harter. "That means a lot to our families. Thank you."
Earlier in the day, the DCSS Finance Committee approved sending six bids to the full board for approval: three for the Exceptional Students program for audiological, applied behavior analysis and specialized nursing service, and three from Child Nutrition Services for fresh produce, grease trap maintenance and fresh bread products.