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School system administrators say they believe they can save $400,000 to retain about 14 employees.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Mark Church , superintendent of Franklin County Public Schools, said the school division believes it can save enough money during the fiscal year that begins July 1 to retain 14.5 positions previously targeted for elimination.
Church and Lee Cheatham, the school system’s finance director, said they believe they can identify ways going forward to save the money necessary, about $400,000, to save these positions — including 13 elementary school computer lab managers and one and one-half secretarial jobs.
The school division budget will be reviewed carefully in January to determine what adjustments will be necessary to realize the necessary savings, Church said.
The budgeting process for the coming fiscal year has been rife with conflict. Former school board Chairman Ed Jamison resigned May 13 when the school board voted to eliminate middle school sports as one way to make ends meet. Funding for those activities was later restored.
Initially, school officials had hoped the county’s board of supervisors would support a 2-cent increase in the real estate tax to support school funding, but supervisors rejected that idea in April, even though the county’s real estate tax is among the region’s lowest.
After supervisors agreed May 23 to boost funding by $300,000, school officials said they still needed to cut jobs and programs. The added funding brought the total county contribution to the school division to about $31.9 million, an increase of about 5 percent overoverfrom over the current fiscal year.
Church had initially suggested that the school board consider asking supervisors to use about $400,000 of about $1.1 million of so-called “carryover” money the schools anticipate will be available at the end of the current fiscal year to retain the 14.5 positions.
But supervisors and school officials have sparred in years past over the use of carryover money to pay for recurring expenses like salaries instead of one-time costs such as new school buses.
Church told school board members Monday night that he had consulted with County Administrator Rick Huff about the strategy of identifying savings of about $400,000 as the year proceeds instead of seeking carryover money from supervisors. He said Huff said the schools are in charge of how the division’s money is spent.
“If the school division can avoid staff cuts by absorbing savings from other areas now that their end-of-year numbers are becoming clearer, that is the school board’s decision to make,” Huff wrote in an email Friday.
“That way, the $400,000 would be recurring in future years and not one time carryover money for salaries that will repeat every year. No action is required from the board of supervisors to reallocate savings from one area to another in the school budget.”
Meanwhile, school board members said Monday that they hope the board will find a way next year to work with supervisors to adopt a budget without the conflict that dogged this year’s effort.
Chairwoman Sarah Alexander described the recent process as painful for all concerned.
School board member Bill Brush told Church and Cheatham that he’d like to see the school division try to calculate early in the calendar year what carryover might total as of June 30.
School board member Thad Montgomery said he worries that the school system has “credibility issues” with the public because dire warnings of draconian budget cuts often do not play out.
Church responded by saying the division has made more than $1 million in cuts to make ends meet.
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