If cuts necessary, where will they be?

Fayette County School System Comptroller Laura Brock reported last week that additional proposed cuts by Gov. Sonny Perdue for the remainder of the fiscal year, if approved by the General Assembly, could mean a loss of $2.8 million in areas such as staff wages, transportation and nursing services.

Estimated potential cuts for January totaled $1,276,490 as a result of another proposed three-day furlough and $1,267,046 from a 1.5 percent budget cut, for a total of $2.544 million, Brock reported to the Board of Education.

Potentially added to those numbers would be $182,262 for the elimination of bus replacement funds, $58,900 from a 4 percent cut to other transportation items and $13,950 from a 4 percent cut to nursing services, Brock said.

The potential funding cuts discussed were only those pertaining to state funding and did not address the potential decrease in local tax revenues that is anticipated.

If enacted by the General Assembly on the governor’s recommendation, the total austerity cut in the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula would total $15,197,462, Brock said, adding that the school system began the fiscal year with $8.8 million in austerity cuts.

Brock said that even with little or no staff turnover the personnel budget would likely increase by approximately $1.617 million due to step increases in pay for employee longevity. She said 841 teachers would be affected by step increases while another 803 would not.

“There are many unknowns,” Brock emphasized, noting that the situation should be clearer in coming weeks as legislators work their way through the governor’s proposals.

During the discussion board Chairman Terri Smith referenced the school system’s general fund balance, saying essentially that some of the accumulating balance from this year and last could be used to address potential future cuts or it could be allowed to continue to build.

The school system at the end of June 2008 carried a fund balance of approximately $4.5 million. School system projections to date show this fiscal year ending with a positive balance of $3.371 million, for a total of $7.88 million.

Also during the discussion Brock noted that the school system should keep at least $15 million in reserves for operating expenses.

Brock in commenting on statewide austerity cuts for Georgia employees said cuts in July totaled $282.6 million. Further cuts proposed by Gov. Sonny Perdue total an additional $186.7 million. Of that, $93.9 million is proposed for additional furlough days with another $92.8 million coming from a 1.5 percent reduction in budgets. A 3 percent budget reduction would increase the figure to $188.4 million, Brock added. At this point those figures are unknown since the General Assembly has yet to approve the governor’s proposal.

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