Muscogee school district announces 113 jobs eliminated - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Muscogee school district announces 113 jobs eliminated

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Superintendent David Lewis announced in a called board meeting Monday that a total of 69 school-based personnel will lose their jobs and an additional 44 vacant positions will be removed as part of the new budget for fiscal year 2015.

The move is a reaction to decreased funding from the state of Georgia.

Prior to Monday, the number of positions known to be affected stood at 31.

Some of the people whose jobs will be eliminated have yet to be notified by the district.

The board approved the budget 6 votes yes to 1 vote no with 1 abstaining and 1 absent. Athavia Senior recused herself because she said her daughter is one of the teachers affected.

Prior to the vote, John Wells made a last minute motion to use $7 million of the district's $20 million reserve fund to restore the 69 currently-held jobs that are being cut.  The current amount in reserve represents 26 extra days of operation.  His motion was voted down 5-2.

Board members voting against Wells' amendment cited the possibility that it would leave the district vulnerable to additional decreases in state funding that may occur mid-year.  The superintendent agreed, adding that depletion of the reserve fund would lower the district's bond rating.

After the meeting, John Wells said, "That is not the case, I've been the finance chairman for seventeen years.  We've gotten our fund balance down to five days before.  That's not good.  But we consistently operate on fifteen, sixteen, seventeen days of fund balance.  We've got over twenty-six days.  We've got a fat bank account sitting up there and now we're letting people go.  I think that's a bad precedent for us to set."

Cathy Williams was the most vocal in her opposition, accusing Wells of making the motion to generate interest in his campaign for re-election, and not because he believed it was a viable option. 

Superintendent Lewis said 19 of the employees are being released because they did not meet performance or certification requirements.  Others are being let go in conjunction with a plan to change the high school class period schedule which Lewis determined to be inefficient at its core.

Wells clarified that he did not want to take the reins out of the superintendent's hands. He said his main purpose was to make sure no one was losing a job because of funding concerns if the money existed to keep them.

In addition to the job eliminations, three counseling positions are being repurposed into graduation coaches.

The planetarium will close and the district will end its contract with the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

Personnel will work four 10-hour days between June 2 to July 18 instead of five 8-hour days.

There will be a modified Thanksgiving and spring break schedule.

Every elementary school will have a clerk position restored and will now have access to two assistant principals, one full-time and one part-time.

The district is steadily receiving less funding from the state to the point where the past 13 years' decreases added together equal a greater figure than this year's total funding.

The state's funding favors counties that decrease in population, and therefore tax base.  Muscogee County's population increased by 1%, which makes it one of Georgia's lowest priorities.

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