Board to consider cuts in January

Published 5:41 pm Friday, December 26, 2008

Superintendent Mike Looney will introduce a cost-cutting plan to the Board of Education at its January meeting due to a projected $1.8 million loss in state revenues because of a prorated education budget.

Gov. Bob Riley declared proration on Monday, Dec. 15 and educators have been scrambling to reduce expenditures to make up for expected budget shortfalls.

What hurts, said Looney, is that the state prorates the entire budget from the beginning of the fiscal year in October on. The board approved a $28.2 million budget for the school system in September – $20.2 million of which was from state funds.

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Looney said he and his staff are looking at several ways to cut costs at schools throughout the county. The final plan will be presented to the Board of Education on Jan. 15.

“While the plan which will be proposed will not cover all of our losses, it will allow us to maintain our focus on classrooms first,” said Looney.

Looney said a number of ideas have been discussed. Nothing has been determined as absolute, he said.

“The list (of ideas) is not exhaustive, nor is it a certainty that any particular item listed will happen,” he said.

Among the cost-cutting measures considered by Looney and his staff:

– Vacating the current Board of Education Central Office on Administrative Dr. in Greenville and relocating to the old Greenville High School, now the Butler County Education and Community Learning Center.

“This would allow us to sell the land and property and would reduce the cost of operating the building which amounts to approximately $19,000 per year,” said Looney.

– Sacrificing new textbooks next year, which would save the county $190,000.

– Eliminating substitute teachers for the balance of the school year, which would save the school system $250,000. Substitute teachers are paid $50 a day, according to the board’s salary schedule.

“Teacher absences could be covered by volunteers, administrators and fellow teachers,” said Looney.

– Restricting the use of heating and cooling systems, while relaxing the board’s uniform policy about wearing coats inside school buildings.

– Eliminating one school bus route and discontinuing bus service for students living within two miles of their school building, which would save $50,000 annually, said Looney.

– Central Office staff’s salaries currently make up 3.9 percent of the local budget, said Looney, with many of those personnel paid through federal funds.

“However, we will examine each position to see if we can reduce this even more,” he said. “I think we can eliminate $80,000 in this category.”

Looney said he welcomes input from the public.

“I encourage everyone to send me ideas on potential savings opportunities,” he said. “No idea is too silly.”

The school system has set up a public blog on its website at where citizens can comment on proposed funding cuts.