Budget survey says cut Fayette’s school year to save money

Close 2 schools, use new Rivers Elem., plurality says in BoE’s online survey

Don’t bring in tuition-paying out-of-county students to Fayette County schools, a plurality of survey takers told the Board of Education.

Close to half the online survey respondents said the system should instead chop days off the school calendar to produce budget savings.

One thing that some parents from Brooks and Tyrone elementary schools agreed on: Don’t close our community schools to balance your budget.

Of the more than 5,000 survey takers, more than one in every four identified themselves as school system employees.

Superintendent Jeff Bearden reported on the survey results at the Sept. 19 meeting of the Board of Education.

Bearden said that survey participants were asked to choose among budget-balancing solutions, including allowing out of county students to pay tuition to attend Fayette schools, closing two elementary schools and one middle school and making changes to the school year.

The most preferred of the questions was reducing the number of school days in the academic year while the least preferred was allowing out-of-county students.

A number of people at the meeting making public comments did so on items included in the survey. Front and center were groups from Brooks and Tyrone who insisted that the elementary schools in their towns remain open.

The reason for the community survey is directly related to the millions of dollars that must be either raised for next year or cut from the budget to give the school board the ability to abide by state law and adopt a balanced budget that begins July 1.

Three of the survey questions — reducing the days in the school year and the potential closure of two elementary school and one middle school — pertained to expense reduction issues while the idea of allowing qualified out-if-county students would be a potential way to generate needed revenues.

There were a total of 5,413 responses to the survey, with 21.4 percent being the parent of an elementary student, 16.5 percent being the parent of a middle school student, 17 percent being the parent of a student at a different level and 11.6 percent were community members with no children in the school system. Beyond that, 26.1 percent were employed by the school system.

The idea of having qualified out-of-county students pay several thousand dollars in tuition to attend Fayette schools was opposed by 44.1 percent of respondents while 22.4 percent said they agreed with the idea. Nearly 20 percent said they were unsure but probably agreed while nearly 14 percent said they were unsure but probably disagreed.

If eventually approved and assuming that an interest exists, each out-of-county student would likely generate $3,000-4,000 in revenue.

As for shortening the academic year by reducing the number of days in the school calendar, 47.5 percent agreed while 20 percent disagreed. Meantime, 21.8 percent hedged toward the reduction while 10.7 percent leaned against the idea.

Cost savings for shortening the school year would include a savings of $21,408 per day in transportation costs and $17,638 per day in utility costs.

The idea of closing one unnamed middle school had the agreement of 35.9 percent of respondents while 27.3 percent disagreed. Of those unsure, 21.9 percent leaned toward closure while 14.9 percent likely preferred the school remain open.

Closing one middle school would save approximately $1 million per year.

The final topic, that of closing two unnamed elementary schools and opening Rivers Elementary, found more agreement than disagreement. Approximately 40 percent of respondents agreed with closing the schools and 19.3 percent were unsure but probably agreed. On the opposite side, 30.6 percent disagreed and 10.3 percent were unsure but probably disagreed.

Closing two elementary schools and opening Rivers would generate approximately $800,000 in savings.

And it was the idea of potentially closing two elementary schools that drew a number of people to the Sept. 19 meeting. Some of those took to the podium during the public comments portion of the meeting. The consensus was easily identifiable. Members of the Tyrone and Brooks communities were insistent that their schools are an integral part of the respective communities and should not be targeted for potential closure.

There were also a number of other comments that accompanied that insistence. Brooks resident Donna New suggested that the survey was not clearly representative of the school system and should either be re-administered or disregarded.

Tyrone resident Melissa Hill questioned the county of residence of survey respondents. She said the schools in Tyrone and Brooks should remain open, adding that the more populated cities such as Fayetteville could handle the closure more easily than the smaller communities of Brooks and Tyrone.

Still others during public comments advocating for the schools in Brooks and Tyrone to stay open suggested taking back teacher’s recently restored pay and instituting a merit-based system for raises, eliminating positions at central office and not allowing out-of-county employees to bring their children to Fayette schools.

Yet another Brooks resident in advocating for her community’s school to remain open said that, if closed, her daughter would likely have to attend a Title 1 school (federal assistance tied to lower income levels) and would be at risk.

In a related matter and based on the apparent support for shortening the school year, Bearden got approval from the school board to work up a mock calendar to get a closer look at specific savings. The mock calendar will be presented at an upcoming board meeting.

Meantime, the school system and the school board has until June to find the solution to the $10 million question of where to cut sufficient expenses and/or increase revenues in order to be able to adopt the state-required balanced budget that begins July 1.

Yet to be discussed are other cost saving measures such as reductions in central office staff and the various program administrators and, as in the case of bus drivers and assistant principals, retaining only the number of those positions paid for by the state.

Though now complete, the survey represents only the initial stage of what could easily become a fall, winter and perhaps even a spring full of meetings aimed at making fiscal decisions.

Fayette County for decades rode the wave of economic expansion where more money flowed in increasingly year after year. But today, declining state dollars from declining enrollment and falling local revenues from a tax digest that has seen a 12 percent drop in the county’s value in the past two years represents a recipe for tough decisions to come.

G35 Dude
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Way to help School system

This morning, as I sat behind a school bus loading kids, I watched a lady drive through the school buses stop sign with no regard to the bus or the kids. As she drove through the driver tried to get her attention but she looked the other way and ignored all attempts. I thought this woman needs a severe fine for this. But I’ve heard that some bus drivers are reluctant to report drivers because of the effort and time that it takes. Example if the accused goes to court the bus driver must be there to testify. And I’m not sure that they get any pay for doing so. So I thought what if we raised the fine for this by $150. Lets give the school system, which seems to need all the help they can get lately $100 and the reporting bus driver $50. We could stop this reckless behavior by some of our citizens while helping the school system and our severely underpaid bus drivers.

roundabout
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School costs

Don't worry, the President is going to give FAYETTE COUNTY EXTRA MONEY FOR SCHOOLS. At least he is trying to do so. Except the republicans want to cut Social Security Insurance and retirement payments, plus food stamps to pay for it!

My suggestion is to keep the schools open year around and have the teachers and staff work 12 months like everyone else. For the same pay.
Not all students would be required to attend 12 months, thus allowing smaller people per room. Let teachers off a few at a time for further studies.

Those numbers to run and maintain buses seem out of reason!

Like it or not the enrollment is decreasing in Fayette. You better take out of county students providing their school system will pay for it. Forget it if you think the parents are going to pay for it. Most can't.

How about raising taxes instead of dumbing down the kids with maybe eight months of school out of twelve? It is obvious they learn nothing beneficial out of school. Tax the wealthy more, and alcohol, cigarettes, luxury vehicles, airplanes, vacations (over 30 days per year), over two beers a day, over five pounds of jerk pork per week, add $5 per bottle of sauce, add a two thousand fee for those on government pensions except SS, and I could go on.

Folks we ain't educatin them kids!

renault314
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Roundy, you are an idiot.

I shudder to think that you actually believe some of the stuff you write here. Deep down I hope that you're trying to be ironic and I just missed it, in which case I'm sorry about the subject line. But, if you're not trying to be clever, you are still an idiot.
Obamas going to give us money? From where?!?!?! His stash? That money comes from federal taxes, which means we're still paying for it one way or the other. And by "we" I mean the %50 of us that actually pay taxes instead of sponging off of others. I'll thank Fayette Countians to solve their problems their own way, something I believe they can do without the federal governments "guidance." I don't want to pay higher taxes for kids in Montana to go to their schools and I'm sure that people in Oregon don't want to pay more for Georgias kids either.
Make teachers work 12 months for the same pay? Screw you. What is it about libs/democrats that makes you think you have a right to other peoples time? I get my salary divided up into 12 even payments, but that doesnt mean I get two months for free. My pay is based on 10 months of work, its just spread out evenly. Why would you think its okay to tell anyone they have no choice but to work for no pay? I think theres a word for that....
Explain exactly how running the busses, burning fuel, using electricty and paying slaries for hourly people (cafeteria, bus drivers) for two ADDITIONAL months each year will save money? Unless you are going to demand that the lights stay on year around but not pay for it, demand that the busses run year around but not put fuel in them, and expect the cafeteria ladies, janitors and bus drivers to work for two additional months but not pay them either? Well, you feel like you have a entitlement to everything else, why not those things too?
As a teacher, I actually don't think that taking kids from other counties would be a bad thing, if they treated it like college. 1) you have to apply ( we get to pick the best) and 2) you have to pay in advance. But, you could never get other counties to pay for it, theres no legal obligation for them to do so. But they would lose the 4K $ per student per year that the state pays the couny since that money would come here too, in addition to the tuition.
Can't raise taxes. Millage rates are already at the state max.
Tax the wealthy more? who dod you think is already paying the taxes? Pay their fair share? How much is fair Roundy? Even if people who made more than 300K a year were taxed at %100 it wouldnt put a dent in the budget deficit.
You are correct that enrollment has declined and thats the real problem. Its down to like 2002 levels now. We lose the property tax their parents paid, and we lose the 4K $ per kid from the state. But your solutions, are poorly thought out, dogmatic and impractical.
Reducing the number of school days is the lesser of all the evils here. Teachers will likely take another pay cut and so will the hourly people. That, combined with the reduced transpo and elec costs will create a lot of savings.
The real losers will be the kids, but they wont lose any more time per year than what was already being planned with the tri-mester schedule or the 7 period day that we were supposed to go with next year. But you can't do both.
If you are going to cut days, then we have to keep the 6 period day. If you are going to change the daily schedule, then we cant cut school days, unless you want to elongate the school day by 90 minutes and go to a four day week. You still have the %20 reduction in fuel, electricity and hourly employee salaries ( thats is what the reduction is supposed to do anyway), but teacher salaries would stay the same since they are teaching the same amount of hours per year.
Roundy, think about whats practical and realistic before you start spouting your usual garbage.

roundabout
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I am ironically clever

I take it you are a teacher.

The kids can't write a paragraph without bad spelling and neither can you!

So, I suppose you don't want the money Obama is trying hard to get through congress for you?

renault314
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Thats your only argument?

I may not be the worlds best speller, but unlike you, I can articulate realistic, cogent and practical soultions to problems.
Is it safe to say that since you didnt argue against any of my rebuttals to your rediculous suggestions that you had no arguments against them? Instead you attack the straw man of my grammar and spelling, since you could find no fault in my logic.
No, Roundy, in case I didnt make myself clear enough the first time. I do NOT want the money Obama is trying to "get" for me as a teacher. I think he's done quite enough damage already thank you. If he was ever actually capable of fixing the economy the way he fooled everyone who voted for him into thinking he could, and then done so, we wouldnt be in this problem now. The jobs would be there, the forclosures wouldnt be there and the BOE would have plenty of money. THATS the way to fix this long term. Not with the raising taxes, borrowing more, increase the deficit yet some more, good for one year only (then what? do it again?) plan you think would be so useful.

BHH
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Save $428,160 per month.

Just by eliminating the buses.

Hmmm?

Robert W. Morgan
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What? $400k per month? for empty buses?

Are you kidding me? That must be the $21,000 per day multiplied out, but what an incredible amount of wasted money. Seems like a no-brainer to get rid of the buses which would then make it easier to check the out of county students when those Clayton and Fulton tags pull up to the school.
Of course the mindless libs would have a hissy fit if just one impoverished or minority kid were deprived of school because she (and it would be a she) didn't have a ride on the bus. So cross that off the possible savings list. Besides, those buses rolling are probably tied to state funding by some state mandate that forces us to provide transportation.

G35 Dude
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RWM-I have a better idea!
Quote:

Seems like a no-brainer to get rid of the buses

I have a better idea. Lets close all public schools and tell parents that they must home-school or send their kids to a private school. If these people can't afford private school and can't stay home from work every day to home-school then just don't educate your child. I think that is what we'd have to do to use your idea. Because I don't see how we can tell some single mother/father that they have to by law educate their kids while not providing a way for those kids to get to school short of jeopardizing the job of said parent.

Robert W. Morgan
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Dude, for $21,000 per day we can hire a limo service

Or at the very least a van service to pick up the kids who actually do ride the school buses. We see 3 a day near us and there is never more that 4 kids on there and we are the next to last stop before 2 of the schools.
Seriously, contract it out.

G35 Dude
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RWM - Contracting out?

Contracting out may or may not be a good idea. But I would assume that even if the service were contracted out that you'd still see an empty bus drive past your house. There are a couple of reasons that you may see this. If this is a big bus then my guess is that you live in an upscale neighborhood. These kids will either have their own cars to drive to school or Mom and Dad will take them. Still a bus capable of transporting the kids that attend school from that neighborhood must be provided. Or is this bus a special needs bus? If so the kids may have physical issues that require transportation to a specific school. I know of one bus that transports 2 kids to Clarkston and back every day. You see that is where the school for the deaf is. And Fayette County is required to provide a bus for them. That would not change if the service were contracted out. Why not stop the bus one day and ask the driver instead of jumping to conclusions?

suggarfoot
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mindless libs in power

"Of course the mindless libs would have a hissy fit if just one impoverished or minority kid were deprived of school because she (and it would be a she) didn't have a ride on the bus. So cross that off the possible savings list. Besides, those buses rolling are probably tied to state funding by some state mandate that forces us to provide transportation."

Yep, and we all know who that is.

The truth is Tyrone Elementary was killed off the day that the ground was broke on Rivers. And don't let your BOE rep from this area tell you any different. They want to divert the blame to anyone but who deserves it. Themselves. There are many problems but the people of Fayette county sat by and let them happen.

You wouldn't take the time to run against the person in office that you knew didn't have your kids best interest at heart. That they only wanted to social climb, and thought a seat on the BOE would help. You left that to someone else. The problem was...there was no one else...so you sat on your butts and let it happen.

I understand there was a developer at the last meeting beating on his chest, what can we do? Oh please, that developer, is one of them that bought up the land around Rivers, wanted Rivers built. Did he donate the land for the school? The school that was going to be such a profitable selling tool for his new subdivsion? Nope. Did he and his developer buddies give a nickel towards building the school? Nope. That was left to the sucker taxpayers. Just like you are sitting there with your hands up your back sides and letting the West Fayette Bypass eat us alive on taxes. You haven't seen taxes like you are about to see! The developers are going to reap hansom rewards. Have they put a dime into building the WFB? Nope.

People KNOW about the out of county kids. Have for years. Know that they cost us a fortune, yet you have never demanded they be thrown out. You have sat idly while others alone fight the fight to get them out.

You guys are not part of the solution. You are part of the problem. You always want some one else to run and you can't be bothered standing up for yourselves.

suggarfoot
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It would be cold comfort

But...I would sell Rivers for pennies on the dollar to any vocational school, any small college, I could. Then I would sit back and watch the developers squeal like stuck pigs!

g8trgrl
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BoE Survey

I was told the survey was thrown out due to lack of participants. Why such a long article on a survey the BoE is not using? Very sad how few people did the survey.

Citizen_Steve
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Survey can't be trusted anyway

The survey is open to the world anyway so the results aren't meaningful. It would have been better to only survey to the real stakeholders - Fayette county households.