Fayette school finances brighten, but $15 million gap remains

The projected June 30 fund balance for the Fayette County School System is growing due to a number of vacated positions not being filled, but the savings now amounting to several million dollars by the end of June will be far from enough to forestall historic cuts in personnel and the possible closure of up to four schools.

A large portion of the projected June 30 fund balance, now estimated at $7 million, comes from continued savings realized by cost-cutting in personnel that began in July. Current figures through January show the school system $1.65 million under budget in salaries and $3.14 million under budget in benefits.

The school system is also $413,431 under budget in the operations portion of the budget. Approximately 91 percent of school system expenditures are in personnel.

Deputy Superintendent Sam Sweat in January said the school system began the year in July with a projected June 30, 2013 fund balance of $800,000. That projection has swelled to what is anticipated to be a June 30 fund balance of approximately $7 million due to cost-saving efforts put in place last summer.

The bulk of the savings come from not filling personnel positions as they become vacant during the school year, according to Sweat and interim Superintendent Dan Colwell.

Colwell said some position vacancies, such as a chemistry teacher, must be filled with a regular hire with benefits. But many others that must be filled can be accomplished by hiring long-term certified substitutes with no benefits. Still other vacant positions can go unfilled for the time being, Colwell said.

A number of other higher paying positions in central office have already been eliminated or consolidated. Central office positions will likely face up to $1 million in cuts. And the school board beginning in March will have to address what is expected to be a total of more than $11 million in total personnel cuts along with more than $3 million that would be saved if four schools are closed.

While ending the fiscal year on June 30 with a fund balance of $7 million or more would represent significant savings, those savings are small in comparison to the projected $15 million that must be cut to adopt a balanced budget in June. The current budget has the school system generating revenues of $163 million and expenses totaling $177 million.

Initial estimates show the school system expecting to generate approximately $162 million in revenues during the school year that begins in July. That figure may have to be adjusted downward if the tax digest, the total value of all real and personal property in the county, falls again this year.

Historic drops in the tax digest over the past few years have contributed significantly to the school system’s loss of revenue. Those drops in value are all the more important considering that the school system receives approximately half its revenue from local property taxes.

The other half of the funding equation, state dollars, have also seen decreases in the past few years. While school systems are quick to point to state-imposed austerity cuts, the reality is that every school system in Georgia receives austerity cuts and is subject to changes in state funding.

That said, there is an aspect of state funding, known as Quality Basic Education (QBE) dollars, that has impacted Fayette County negatively for the past few years.

In terms of QBE dollars, each student generates approximately $4,000 per year to school system revenues. Fayette has lost approximately 2,000 students in recent years leading to a loss of approximately $8 million. Projections are for the school system to lose another 500 students when school begins in August.

Revenue considerations are steering the budget conversation today since the school system can no longer rely, as it has in the last few years, on multiple millions of dollars in available fund balances to balance the budget. Those days are gone. And that is why the historic cuts in personnel and possible school closures are making the news this year.

g8trgrl
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Parapros given pink slips today

All Fayette County Parapros were given pink slips today - ALL. Not just first grade.....good times. Teachers without tenure were notified today that their job is in jeopardy......

aliquando
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Answer?

No one has answered my question. What criteria?

NoBama
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Long term certified teacher

Usually a retired or out-of-work certified teacher. I still do not feel they would offer the quality of education our students deserve.

AtHomeGym
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Nobama & Long Term Substitutes

Got prior experience with them? Don'tbe so quick to criticize; why not show a tad more trust in Mr.Colwell's advice--he's been in the business a long time and knows more than the average parent about what's best. Do you not think there are some inferior regular hires? You would like a Cadillac experience for a VW cost--ain't gonna happen!

aliquando
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I am also in the business.

You need a teacher with a long term investment. Part - timers will not cut the mustard over a whole year. Do you want to punish teachers who have taught here long term?

heatjam
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NoBama

Or maybe they are young, just out of college who have a lot of new, fresh ideas and lots of enthusiasm?? Right now we have a few at my child's school and they are great!

aliquando
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less than half pay?

Who would take that job at less than half pay and no benefits. There are real jobs in other counties. We are losing just the type of teachers you are describing.

wildcat
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@ aliquando

In 19 years I've known of only 1 long-term sub (the whole year). She was not a certified teacher and every x-number of weeks she had to be replaced with another sub for a period of days and then she could resume for another x-number of weeks (and the cycle repeated). She had kids in the school and a spouse with a nice income. She was not doing it for the money.

Husband and Fat...
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Boat loads

There are boat loads of out of work teachers chomping at the bit to get a foot in the door and get noticed. They certainly would take an offer that pays something rather than sit at home.

I get resumes every day from quality people who have been out of work begging for anything. There are a ton of reasons why they would take a job paying half of the normal salary. You just have been lucky enough not to be in this situation.

aliquando
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Where and what subjects do they teach?

There may be boatloads of Elementary and PE teachers. Special Ed., Math and Science are still hard to come by.

PTC Observer
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School Cuts

across the nation.

"articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/31/nation/la-na-education-budget-cuts-20110731"

We aren't that unusual, read it a weep. Let's privatize our educational system and give everyone the opportunity for the best outcomes in education.

Sorry, no direct link as this will through me into The Citizen twilight zone.

NoBama
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Long term substitute?

"Colwell said some position vacancies, such as a chemistry teacher, must be filled with a regular hire with benefits. But many others that must be filled can be accomplished by hiring long-term certified substitutes with no benefits. Still other vacant positions can go unfilled for the time being, Colwell said."

Long term substitute teacher does not equal a quality education. I will remove my children from this public school system and home school them rather than leave them to languish with a substitute teacher for a year. I think that Mr. Colwell's children should be the first to be assigned to such a class.

wildcat
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@ nobama

At some of the high schools they have already replaced special ed teachers with parapros (physics, history, env sci, etc). I suspect that with all of the money issues this will become the norm.

heatjam
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NoBama

He did not say "long term substitute teacher" he said "long-term CERTIFIED teacher"...Big difference!!!

aliquando
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Who should they fire?

I am curious. Which teachers should they eliminate? What criteria do you people think should be used? Just want an honest opinion.

wildcat
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Who should they fire?

Maybe they will reinstate the rubric they used about four years ago???? I heard that the principals were all schooled in methods of evaluating who stays/goes. Could be a rumor.

MYTMITE
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Should we laugh or cry? Reading this headline on the front

page of the Metro section of the AJC this morning had me laughing and wanting to cry: "EXECUTED MAN MAKES APOLOGY."

If this was a one time goof it would be one thing but over and over the newpaper is full of mistakes: spelling, grammar, etc. In the past when I have called the editor to complain about an error I have been told that 'spell check' should have caught it. My reply was "What about person check?" Seems no one proofs anything before it goes out in print. And they wonder why many of our young people can't read or spell??? I taught my children and grandchildren to read by sitting them on my lap and reading the paper with and to them. Not anymore, 'See Jack Run' looks better and better all the time.

dwsscs
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Loss of Students

Maybe the school should look into student retention as well as the other cuts. I am one of those who live in county and removed my student as I was not satisfied with the school and felt my concerns were not heard. I know many people are transient and the economy still hasn't recovered, and I only represent one student at $4,000. I have spoke with many who removed their students also for similar reasons. It's interesting the loss of students add up to $8 million and another 500 lost adds $2 million, so $10 million total will be missing soon. Maybe parents should feel like they have a better voice when issues come up. It might save $ millions down the road.

g8trgrl
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School closings

If the enrollment is truly going to be 500 less next year, how can the BOE not vote to close schools? I have seen the proposals to save some money, but they do not add up to the $15 million the county is short. I really don't want schools to close, but I feel the BOE must represent all taxpayers in the county and fix this budget.Cutting all the programs that have made Fayette special are not the answer. Cutting middle school sports, counselors, fine arts and first grade parapros is going to make Fayette county a middle of the road school district.

The past years of spending have really caught up to us all.

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