Late Monday afternoon, we received a notice that the Dougherty County Board of Education is indeed conducting a called budget meeting for 5 p.m. today at the School Administration Building at 200 Pine Ave.
While that wasn't as much notice as most people would have liked, the fact that the meeting was called is a departure from the way the School Board has handled its budget-writing in the past.
From what we have seen and heard, the Fiscal Year 2013 spending plan -- which will cover the period of July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013 -- will be a challenging one, to say the least. Teachers are already being prepared for furloughs in the coming budget year. Projections are that the system will have to deal with about $9 million in expenditures that exceed revenues.
Since Georgia requires its governments to operate with balanced budgets, that means that unless the system has enough funds in reserve to cover the shortfall and opts to use them, one of three things has to happen -- spending must be decreased, revenues must be raised or both.
Whatever the solution turns out to be, taxpayers who are footing the education bills in Dougherty County should have the opportunity to have input in regard to what they would like to see happen. Plus, there's a chance that an innovative idea could be generated by someone from the outside looking in.
It's worth clearing out some time this afternoon to go to the Administration Building and get first-hand information as to what is going on financially with the school system. This also should be early enough in the budget-writing process for adjustments to be made if good ideas from the public come to the table.
We hope that's what those who decide to attend the meeting will do -- come with ideas about what's important and how the students who attend the system can be best served within realistic spending levels.
We also hope that there will be a large turnout for this meeting, one that is vitally important to everyone in Dougherty County. There are a great many complaints made about how the system operates in Dougherty County, but an empty room would merely show complacency with business as usual and make those complaints hollow.
This is an opportunity to be seen and heard, and to help effect a solution. It's worth the trouble it will take to attend the meeting and it's an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted.