Dougherty County School Board chair Carol Tharin and Interim Superintendent Butch Mosely will lead the School Board at a meeting Thursday with area state legislators to discuss the district’s priorities in the General Assembly, which convenes in January. The meeting will at 8:30 a.m. in the Government Center. (Photo: Terry Lewis)
ALBANY — The Dougherty County School Board and Interim Superintendent Butch Mosely will meet with members of the county’s state legislators at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the Government Center to discuss the school system’s priorities as the House and Senate prepare for the 2014 session, which opens next month.
State Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, and state Reps. Winfred Dukes, D-Albany; Gerald Greene, R-Cuthbert, and Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, are expected to be in attendance. Rep. Carol Fullerton, D-Albany, who is still recovering from an auto accident, is not expected to attend.
For the fifth straight year, the lawmakers likely will get an earful concerning state austerity cuts, shrinking QBE (Quality Basic Education) Act funding and furlough days. But there will also be other items of importance discussed.
“I want to talk to them about rising insurance costs,” Mosely said Tuesday. “The cost for insurance is going to increase from $800 to $1,000 a year for our employees. In the past, the state has typically absorbed those increases and we hope they will do it again this year. If they don’t, we have to cover the increase. It’s going to mean a $1 million hit to our general fund.”
School Board Chair Carol Tharin agreed. “To me, the biggest issue with the insurance increase is we will have to take that money out of our general fund,” Tharin said. “That will have a direct impact on our classrooms.”
Mosely also wants to discuss the state’s “49 percenter” rule, which deals with compensation and work time for school system employees under the Teacher Retirement System of Georgia.
The rule states that the retirement system will review employment of system retirees and that all compensation for a retiree cannot exceed 49 percent of what the retireee would be paid were he or she a full-time employee in the position.
“I’d like for the state to review that particular legislation,” Mosely said. “Financial advisers say teachers should retire after 34 years in the system, otherwise they’ll lose money. So, many bright, hardworking people are leaving the system at 58 or 59. That’s a lot of talent going to waste, especially in the areas of science and math, where we desperately need qualified teachers.”
Tharin also has a beef with the state’s mandate for Georgia’s 180 school districts to choose an operational system by June 30. Local school districts must pick among becoming a charter, IE2 or status quo system. It appears the state is pushing districts to either the charter or IE2, which the state Department of Education says will result in more flexibility in spending.
Tharin is not happy with the mandate.
“This is going to be a nightmare,” Tharin said. “Nobody seems to fully understand the options and we get no answers on who will fund these changes. In the past, the Legislature has issued mandates with no funding and I think it’s about time for them to put their money where their mouth is.”