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Board slashes $600K from budget

Board of Education members have approved approximately $600,000 in cuts to the 2008-09 budget, but educators will likely have to slash an amount equal to that in order to meet necessary funding cuts due to proration.

Superintendent Mike Looney proposed a total reduction of budgeted expenditures by $1.2 million to board members during Thursday night’s regular meeting. Board members accepted budget cuts totaling half that number.

“I’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” said Looney. “We have some ideas, but with cuts like we’re looking at they can only come from personnel. The board had to make difficult decisions tonight. These were recommendations and I understand the board’s position.”

Looney said the school system needs to cut $1.8 million from the budget based on nine percent proration, but intentions were to use money from the school’s $2.5 million in reserve funds to insulate the system from the effects of proration. Gov. Bob Riley declared proration of the state’s Education Trust Fund budget in December.

More cuts are coming, said Looney. Draining the system’s savings anymore than necessary would leave the district woefully unprepared for the next fiscal year.

“And next year is supposed to be worse than this year,” said Looney. “From what I’m hearing this is just the beginning.”

A few of the cuts that failed board approval included:

A reduction of instructional supply money for teachers from $400 to $320 at a savings of $17,834.40 per year.

A reduction of professional development funding from $35 per teacher unit to $22.40 per teaching unit at a savings of $2,808.92 per year.

A change in the personal leave policy that would create a substitute teacher pool based on the number of teachers at each school. Once exhausted the individual schools would have to find alternatives when teachers or absent. Either a school administrator or other personnel would have to monitor the class. Savings each year would be approximately $80,000.

Temporarily halting a board-approved increase of $9,000 for coaching supplements for basketball coaches.

Reducing energy costs by 10 percent at each school in the county, amounting to an annual savings of $30,000. The proposal would relax the board’s policy on allowing students to wear coats inside school buildings.

Board member Linda Hamilton was especially adamant against the proposal.

“We have said we’re going to put our children first and create a great learning environment,” said Hamilton. “How can we even suggest this? If it’s cold enough for a child to wear a jacket inside the school it is too cold.”

A proposed elimination of $100,000 for preventive maintenance to existing school facilities, which was accepted when Looney only requested a $50,000 reduction.

“If we do no preventive maintenance I feel that’s just shooting ourselves in the foot,” said board member Joe Lisenby.

Some cuts approved by the board included:

Reducing library funds from $175 to $112.

Reducing central office staff salaries by $80,000.

Halting the purchase of new textbooks at a savings of $190,000.

Relocating the Central Office to the old Greenville High School building, which will save approximately $15,000 in energy savings per year.

Eliminating a $53,000 grounds keeping contract.

Eliminating all local travel mileage for administrative staff at a savings of $4,000.