Muscogee Co. super sends letter to employees regarding budget cuts - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

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Muscogee Co. super sends letter to employees regarding budget cuts

Dear Muscogee County School District Employees:

As you are all aware, we find ourselves in an economic situation unprecedented since the Great Depression and it is actually being called The Great Recession by economists.

State funding for public education has been decreasing since 2000; however, I want to bring to your attention the cuts that we have experienced most recently.

During the 2008-2009 school year, State funding for Muscogee County Schools was cut $12,698,467. During the current 2009-2010 school year, we have been cut $13,292,423.

The salary cuts for employees for the furlough and calendar adjustment days accounted for $6 million of this amount.

For the 2010-2011 school year, we are anticipating an additional cut projected to be $18,000,000.

  1. 12,698,467 + 13,292,423 +18,000,000 = $43,990,890
  2. (Total of three year reduction in state money to the Muscogee County School District.)

When budgets are cut this drastically, it is unreasonable to think that everything can remain the same.

We have been cutting positions at both the Central Office and the school level as individuals resign or retire and we have not replaced personnel in dozens of vacant positions. We have cut state-paid travel, reduced field trips, and delayed textbook adoptions.

We have cut the budget of every department in the school district. With the additional $18 million dollars of cuts for next year we are now at a critical time when we have to look for deeper cuts.

I appreciate the many suggestions that were sent in from all over the district as to how we might balance next year's budget. We collected all of your suggestions and they have been shared with the Board of Education.

The Cabinet and I have put costs to the suggestions and we have selected a list of items to take to the Board as our recommended list of personnel, programs, and services to cut that will equal approximately $18million. At tonight's (April 19th) Board meeting this list will become public. I wanted to share the list with you prior to taking it to the public at tonight's meeting.

I want to emphasize that this is a recommended list. It may not be the final list. By taking these ideas to the Board table we will begin the conversations that will get us to the final list.

At this time, the Board of Education has not voted on any of these and the final list will not be voted on until the budget is approved.

Between now and then, we will have public forums and will notify you of the dates and times. There will be public hearings on the budget as there are every year and those will provide other opportunities for input into the process.

The list that I am recommending to the Board of Education includes:

Recommendation:

Budget costs:

Ten fewer work days for all employees. This would include five fewer student days and five fewer in-service/employee days.

$10 million

Reducing positions both at the Central Office and school level through a hiring freeze and through attrition. Hiring of classroom positions will be determined by reviewing class sizes and using ratios of 1:21 for kindergarten; 1:23 for grades 1-3; 1:28 for grades 4-5

$ 2.5 million

Delaying textbook adoption. We would budget for textbook replacements and move to the use of more digital content.

$ 1.5 million

Eliminating non-highly qualified paraprofessionals. Assign one paraprofessional to every two first grade classes.

$ 450,000

Eliminate year-round school calendars in the two schools and one program using this schedule and returning those schools to a traditional calendar

$ 50,000

Eliminate the Evening School Program and provide for students to complete credit recovery at their individual high schools

$ 400,000

Consolidate the students at Benning Hills with Muscogee Elementary. Due to retirements and transfers no one would lose a job in this transition.

$ 325,000

Move Academic Success Programs to the Benning Hills campus to save on infrastructure costs necessary to keep the Academic Success Program at its current campus

$ 374,000

Change the school start times in order to better tier the transportation system, thereby reducing the number of drivers needed by fifteen to twenty:

Elementary:

Current 8:45 a.m. - 3:15 p.m.

Proposed 8:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Middle:

Current: 8:25 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Proposed 9:00 a.m. – 4:20 p.m.

High :

Current 7:45 a.m. – 2:45 p.m.

Proposed 8:25 a.m. – 3:25 p.m.

$ 200,000

Total Projected Savings:

$15,799,000*

*In order to balance this year's budget, we used $11 million dollars of our fund balance. For next year, we would use approximately $13 million.

As we have the conversations about cuts, we must also have conversations about any ways that we have available to raise revenue. There are very few options available but the ones listed below were suggested several times in the recommendations which came to us.

Options for increasing revenue:

  1. charging employees tuition for their non-resident children who attend Muscogee County Schools ($980,000)
  2. raising the millage rate on ad valorem taxes

I have also asked the Mayor and City Manager to consider returning the responsibility for the salaries of Crossing Guards to the City ($407,000) and for the City Council to consider charging the school district less money for collecting property taxes (currently at 2.5% of amount collected which is the maximum allowed by Ga. Law). I will make final recommendations on these issues when I am informed of the final state revenue numbers. We will not have our State revenue allotment sheet until at least the first week of May.

I hope you understand that we are working hard to balance the budget. We are trying to protect the core mission of our classrooms while trying to avoid large numbers of lay-offs. Please feel free to offer your input concerning the items on the list. Each item was placed on the list after much thought and after reviewing many other options.

Thank you for the work that you do every day. We have never seen times like this in public education, but I am confident that we will come through this stronger and that our students will continue to receive a quality education every day .

Susan Andrews, Superintendent

Cc: Muscogee County Board of Education

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