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DCSS public budget hearings sparsely attended

Dougherty County School Board Vice Chairman James Bush listens during one of two public meetings held Monday to discuss the school system’s proposed FY2014 budget. The board is expected to vote on a final budget on June 26.

Dougherty County School Board Vice Chairman James Bush listens during one of two public meetings held Monday to discuss the school system’s proposed FY2014 budget. The board is expected to vote on a final budget on June 26.

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County School Board held two public meetings Monday to gather input on a tentative $119 million Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

The meetings were sparsely attended. The noon meeting had just one person stand to talk, local activist William Wright, and the evening session yielded no additional speakers.

Wright, a fixture at most city and county meetings, once again asked the board to look at a program to retain more jobs for local citizens and to consider starting a minority enterprise program for the awarding of school system contracts.

DCSS Executive Director of Finance and Operations Ken Dyer said after the final meeting that he hoped to place a final budget before the DCSS Finance Committee next week for approval, and to bring the budget for a vote before the full board on June 26.

"This is a very tight budget and it looks like next year will be even tighter," Dyer said.

Dyer added one of the bright spots of the proposed budget will be that he will recommend that the system's millage rate of 18.445 remain unchanged.

"Despite modest increases in funding for education for FY 2014, the school district will again have to balance the budget with adjusted work days."

District employees had six furlough days in FY 2013, and Dyer said Wednesday the approximately $2 million the system is expected to save from recent school closures and the elimination of the district's mobility policy have yet to be worked into the tentative budget.

But, Dyer added, those numbers will be in the final budget, and there is a possibility that furlough days could be cut to four from six. Each furlough day (or adjusted work day) saves the district approximately $600,000.

At the end of the first meeting, board member James Bush said that after reviewing board stipends paid to members of the board, he would recommend looking into raising that stipend

The DCSS currently pays board members $250 a month. Bush pointed that an Albany city commissioners' stipend is more than $13,000 annually and county commission members receive $800 per month.

"I surveyed 13 school districts across the state and DCSS board members are among the lowest compensated," Bush said. "I can't recall the last time our stipends were raised."

As a sampling of stipends, DeKalb County pays school board members $1,900 per month, Muscogee $978, and Fayette County $500.

The average monthly compensation of the 13 districts Bush surveyed was $931.

Bush said he hoped to bring up the issue at the next meeting of the DCSS finance committee