Dougherty County School System Finance and Operations Director Ken Dyer presented the DCSS Board with a tentative $122 million budget for Fiscal Year 2015 on Thursday that includes deep cuts to general fund expenditures. The cuts will cover an $8 million shortfall and would allow the system to submit a balanced budget to the state by a June 30 deadline. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)
ALBANY — The Dougherty County School Board voted 6-0 at a called meeting Thursday to approve a tentative $122 million 2015 budget that includes $8 million in cuts to general fund expenditures.
The board also scheduled two public hearings for June 10 and 16 for community input and another called session on June 19 to make a final vote on the budget.
Among the 21 proposed budget cuts are a four-year phasing out of Albany Early College, the elimination of five assistant principal positions, The elimination of eight CTAE (Career Technical Agriculture Education) positions at the four high schools, the elimination of the Drop Back In Academy DBIA) program, a reduction in elective programs, deferring the purchase of new text books and eliminating two staff furlough days instead of four.
“I don’t know how many hours (Finance and Operations Director Ken Dyer) has worked on this budget, but I want to commend Mr. Dyer and his staff on giving the board something they can work with,” DCSS Superintendent Butch Mosely said. “I’d also like to thank the board for handling the meeting professionally because we are faced with some difficult choices.”
Most of the crowd in attendance consisted of Albany Early College parents unhappy with the proposed phase out of the program, which would see the program move from Albany State University to Albany High School during the winding down process.
Begun in 2008 with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and was also funded by Federal Title I and Title II. However, the grant money has dried up, placing the $2 million per year operating costs solely upon the DCSS. Those costs, Dyer said, have rendered the program “unsustainable.”
“We currently have a program focused on a smaller group of students,” Board Chairperson Carol Tharin said. “We really need to look at how many students we are servicing and ask ourselves if it’s really for the greater good of all of our students.”
Board member Robert Youngblood agreed.
“I have no problem with dipping into the general fund for a one-time program, but I don’t think it should be used to sustain a program,” Youngblood said. “We are going to have to make some tough cuts to balance this budget. The bottom line is if we don’t have the money, then we don’t have it.”
The reduction in assistant principals is projected to save the system more than $1 millon per year; deferring the purchase of new text books $1.5 million; the elimination of the DBIA $750,000 and reduction in in elective program offerings $428,000
The big ticket reduction, however, remains Albany Early College.
“What to do with Albany Early College will be the most difficult decision this board will make in this budget,” Board member Darrel Ealum said.
Fellow board member James Bush was pragmatic with his assessment.
“How can you give something when you have nothing to give?” Bush asked. “We are going to have to cut some good programs, but where will the money come from to keep them? Are we going to rob Peter to pay Paul?”
“I’d like for people to look at what we are trying to do right now because it will help us in the long run,” Mosely said. “People are going to have to trust us to do the right things for the future of our school system.”
Mosely added that if the board cannot reach agreement on the cuts, he would ask that they vote on each of the 21 cut recommendations individually, “then we’ll see what happens.”
The system must present a budget to the Georgia Department of Education by June 30.