Dougherty County School Board Chairperson Carol Tharin, while pleased the School Board voted Monday to eliminate all furlough days from the tentative 2014-15 school calendar, cautioned the proposal depends on how much extra QBE (Quality Basic Education) funding the system receives from the state for FY2015. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)
ALBANY — The Dougherty County School Board on Monday evening unanimously approved a tentative Fiscal Year 2015 school calendar which, for the first time in more than five years, includes no employee furlough days.
Interim Superintendent Butch Mosely said the board’s decision to eliminate the remaining four furlough days from the tentative calendar was possible because of a combination of the system’s improving finances and better budget management.
With the system’s current reserves hovering in the range of $9 million and possibly reaching $12 million by the end of the FY 2014 on June 30, Mosely said now was the time to look at eliminating the unpopular money-saving measure.
“Before anybody starts dancing in the streets, I want to stress that this is a tentative calendar and is subject to change,” Mosely said. “Plus, the days won’t be officially given back until the board adopts a new budget in June. If approved, we’ll still have to dip into our reserves to make it happen.”
Board Chair Carol Tharin said the plan to eliminate the furlough days evolved over time as the 15,000-plus student system’s financial condition improved.
Giving back the days, she said, “was an easy decision for us. Furloughs ware hard on our employees and they are hard on the system. Right now, we plan on eliminating the final four days, but that plan depends on how much money the state Legislature appropriates for education. Nothing is written in stone at the moment.”
The district, like many across the state, felt the hit from deep QBE (Quality Basic Education) austerity cuts that began in earnest in FY 2010.
In January, Gov. Nathan Deal unveiled a state budget for FY 2015 that includes $807 million in new revenues. According the the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI), most of that money will be allocated to education.
The proposed education budget puts $314 million into partial restoration of K-12 education formula austerity cuts and adds another $170 million in K-12 and higher education formula growth. The FY 2015 education budget is $7,951,720,712 — $542 million more than the FY 2014 budget of $7,409,293,094.
The DCSS received $69,635,072 in QBE funding in FY 2014 and Dougherty school officials have speculated that because of a reduction in austerity cuts, the QBE allocation from the state could grow by $3 million in FY 2015. DCSS Director of Finance and Operations Ken Dyer warned that the increase might be offset by losses in other QBE categories, such as equalization allocations.
Dyer added that each furlough day saves the district approximately $500,000 and that the elimination of the remaining four days would cost $2 million, which likely would necessitate dipping into the district’s reserves.