Dougherty County School Board Chairperson Carol Tharin and Superintendent Butch Mosely are shown prior to approving $8 million in cuts to the system’s $122 million FY 2015 budget which must be submitted to the state by June 30. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)
ALBANY — In a 4-2 vote Thursday morning, the Dougherty County School Board adopted a spending plan for Fiscal Year 2015, which starts July 1.
The board approved the plan it gave preliminary approval to earlier this month. The $122 million spending package includes $8 million in cuts to general fund expenditures.
Board members Carol Tharin, Darrel Ealum, Lane Price and Robert Youngblood voted to approve the budget, while James Bush and Velvet Riggins cast the dissenting votes. Board member Milton Griffin was absent from today’s called meeting.
The budget included 21 spending cuts, including moving Albany Early College from the Albany State university campus to Albany High School and cutting the program back to grades 9 -12, dropping the eighth grade segment. Included in the cuts from the budget proposal earlier this month were the elimination of five assistant principal positions, elimination of eight Career Technical Agricultural Education positions, elimination of the Drop Back In Academy and STAR Program, a reduction in elective programs, and deferring the purchase of new textbooks.
The spending plan cuts by half the number of staff furlough days, eliminating two of the four that staff had in the current fiscal year.
“A 15-1 student teacher ratio at Albany Early College was never intended to be supported by $1.5 million a year from the general fund. And the program was originally never intended to support juniors and seniors,” DSCC Director of Finance and Operations Ken Dyer said. “My recommendation is we relocate the Albany Early College to Albany High for a ‘school within a school’ concept.”
During earlier budget discussions and hearings, the School Board said it planned to relocate Albany Early College to Albany High School and phase it out over the next few years.
Board member Robert Youngblood said the budget discussions were difficult.
“We made a difficult decision today,” Youngblood said, “but it is incumbent on us for when we cut programs that we have a safety net in place for those kids. It’s also important to remember that this budget is a living document and can be amended at any time if our financial situation changes.”
At the end of the meeting, Board member Darrel Ealum, who is leaving the board at the end of the year and is in the midst of a runoff election for a seat on the Georgia House of Representatives, tossed his colleagues a curve ball when he made a motion to amend the budget by adding a three percent cost of living increase for all non-management employees.
“These are some of the hardest-working people in the Dougherty County School System and they haven’t had a raise since 2007. It would cost us just over $330,000 out of our reserve and these people deserve it.”
Youndblood responded quickly.
“I know our salaries aren’t where they need to be, but I would advise waiting until mid-term and look at this,” Youngblood said. “I applaud your effort.”
Board vice-chair James Bush questioned why the proposal wasn’t sent through the proper channels.
“We have committees in place for a reason,” Bush said. “The committee process works and we need to follow it. Plus, where are we going to get the money?
Bush then made a substitute motion to refer Ealum’s motion to the Finance Committee for consideration. That motion passed 5-1 with Ealum voting no.