Potential Fayette BoE cuts: 220 staffers, 4 schools

On the chopping block: 100 teachers and other certified positions, 100 parapros; Brooks and Tyrone Elem. may close; board trying to deal with $15 million budget shortfall

A preliminary proposal for the historic budget cuts for the Fayette County School System that will take effect in July were presented at a Jan. 18 called meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education.

The initial proposal calls for cutting more than 220 employees across the system for a savings of more than $11 million and the closure of four schools for a savings of more than $3 million.

With a call for cuts totaling $15.1 million, the school board is expected to commit to the reductions no later than April.

The vast majority of cuts will come in personnel since 90.1 percent of the school system’s budget in personnel-related.

The current budget has 350 positions funded exclusively by Fayette County taxpayers that carry a price tag of $16.67 million.

Those include 117 parapros at $2.925 million, 14.5 counselors at $1.09 million, 14.5 assistant principals at $1.3 million, 49 secretaries at $1.23 million and 150 teachers at $9.75 million.

Middle school athletics comes with a price tag of $250,000 while five parking lot attendants cost $125,000, with parking fees helping defray that cost.

Though the final decision by the school board may vary, the list of potential budget reductions presented by assistant superintendent of business and personnel management Tom Gray called for eliminating 100 certified positions that includes assistant principals, teachers, counselors and other staff such as art and music teachers. If implemented, those cuts would save $7.25 million in salaries and benefits.

Also up for a reduction to the tune of approximately $1 million are a number of the positions in central office. Some of the cost-savings for next year are already being realized since some of the positions have been vacated and are not being filled, while other positions are being consolidated. Still other positions are currently under review for consolidation or elimination.

Another potential cut would see the reduction of 100 parapros for a savings of $2.5 million and a reduction of 10 secretaries at $200,000.

Other potential budget cuts include outsourcing the services of the school system’s 152 custodians for a savings of $500,000, reducing supplements and extended day contracts to save $400,000, eliminating middle school athletics at $250,000 and eliminating parking lot attendants at the five high schools for a savings of $125,000.

If approved by the school board the budget savings, combined with ongoing cost-saving measures from not filling some vacated positions, will provide a projected fund balance on June 30, 2014 that totals $5.8 million.

Interim Superintendent Dan Colwell said the specific numbers will be ready in time for the school board’s regular meeting in March or shortly thereafter. And while the board will not adopt the 2013-2014 budget until June, Colwell said he will be recommending that the school board render a decision by April so affected employees can be notified and so that needed preparations for the next school year can get underway.

As for the potential school closures, Colwell after the meeting identified the four schools as Fayette Middle School, Brooks Elementary, Tyrone Elementary and Fayetteville Intermediate (FIS).

If closed beginning in July the savings would amount to approximately $800,000 each, with the bulk of the savings coming in personnel.

The reconstituted redistricting committee will make an initial presentation on Jan. 28 followed by public hearings and a school board decision in March.

The need for the historic budget cuts was essentially echoed in comments Jan. 18 by Ga. Dept. of Education Deputy Superintendent for Business and Finance Scott Austensen, a Fayette County resident with children in Fayette schools.

Austensen noted that while there may be little change in Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget, healthcare costs for non-teaching employees will increase. Those costs will add another $1.5 million to the school system in the 2013-2014 school year and an additional $1.5 million the following year.

Austensen also reviewed Fayette’s falling student enrollment and the resulting decrease in state dollars that have combined with falling property tax revenues to generate millions less in school system revenue in recent years. This year and last, the budget was balanced by using fund balance that is now essentially depleted.

Without sufficient cuts, Austensen said Fayette’s fund balance will go negative in the 2013-2014 school year.

“It’s illegal to operate in a deficit unless you have a remediation plan,” Austensen said of the precarious position Fayette would find itself in if necessary cuts are not made to the budget.

School systems in such shape are required to submit a deficit reduction plan to the state, submit a monthly financial report to the Ga. Dept. of Education and advertise a statement of actual monthly operations in the local newspaper.

And pertaining to class sizes and the number of schools, Austensen said the school system currently has an excess of 354 classrooms in its 28 schools. Based on current trends the system will have 545 excess classrooms in five years, he added.

With approximately 20,400 students today, Fayette’s student enrollment is back to where it was more than a decade ago. A problem associated with enrollment is that it is projected to continue to fall.

Deputy Superintendent Sam Sweat recently projected that Fayette schools will lose another 530 students next year. That assessment is in line with a 2011 University of Georgia study that projected Fayette losing 1,650 students between 2012 and 2021. Meantime, Fayette County has opened five schools since 2002.

The problem with school system finances that will require historic cuts is two-fold. The first involves the budget cuts made over the past few years. While millions were cut, those sums were not sufficient to keep up with plummeting revenues.

The second involves falling revenues that come from two sources. One source involves the large decreases in student enrollment that resulted in a decrease of millions of state dollars coming to Fayette County. The other pertains to additional millions of dollars lost due to falling local property values brought on by the recession.

“We can’t kick the can down the road anymore,” board Chairman Marion Key said on Jan. 18.

Without making what will amount to historic budget cuts the school board will find itself in violation of state law by being unable to adopt a balanced budget, an eventuality that would throw Fayette into the unenviable category shared by a small handful of deficit-spending school systems referenced by Austensen minutes earlier.

The school board in recent years has adopted budgets that have sliced millions off the expenditure side of the budget, though in two of the past three years those adoptions came on 3-2 votes, with board members Key and Bob Todd voting in opposition over what they believed were an insufficient number of budget reductions.

The budget for the current school year calls for spending about $177 million but receiving only $163 million in tax revenue.

The shortfall this year is being made up by spending almost all of the system’s fund balance.

A similar imbalance in revenues versus expenditures occurred in the previous year when another $15 million in fund balance was used to balance that budget.

Those days will come to an end with the adoption of the 2013-2014 budget because, for the first time in several years, expenses will equal revenue.

wildcat
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stop special permission

Why not stop giving special permission, send everyone to their home school, get rid of the trailers and then see where we stand as far as half-empty schools vs capacity/over capacity schools? I know, I know....too many cry babies that don't want to go to certain schools in the county but don't want the expense of moving, right???? One lady told me (to my face) that her kid goes to WHS (she lives close enough to FCHS to walk) because her kid "can't go to 'that' school." Whatever. She also told me that she doesn't have to request special permission every year because Dr. D "grandfathered" her in. Really????

heatjam
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Wildcat
wildcat wrote:

Why not stop giving special permission, send everyone to their home school, get rid of the trailers and then see where we stand as far as half-empty schools vs capacity/over capacity schools? I know, I know....too many cry babies that don't want to go to certain schools in the county but don't want the expense of moving, right???? One lady told me (to my face) that her kid goes to WHS (she lives close enough to FCHS to walk) because her kid "can't go to 'that' school." Whatever. She also told me that she doesn't have to request special permission every year because Dr. D "grandfathered" her in. Really????

I believe that once you get special permission to attend a school, it stays in effect until you graduate out of that school level.

conditon55
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Equal Footing

It seems that no school in this situation should be untouchable.

How about a simple idea that will not solve the problem but it will make me feel better ? Can we start by removing all temporary classrooms that sit in our school yards as an eye sore ? Especially if they are no longer used ?

Too expensive to remove you say? 1-800-got-junk.

kgray
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extras

Why not be creative? I am sure there is a way that the extras could be funded. Those extras are the very things that give Fayette County schools the reputation they have. Understandably things need to be cut because of budget shortfalls, but isn't there another way? MUST everything be through the state? Couldn't we have a seperate entity for extra things like music, arts and athletics? Parents in Fayette already pay many extra $$ to have their children in these extra activities PLUS recreational activites, private lessons and the such. It seems like the recreation department, the fayette county board of education and the people of Fayette county could come up with another plan so that our schools, our communty will not suffer. In the long run, it is much better to have our children involved in these activities, have the extra help from parapros, and the like...it is more inexpensive to prevent a problem (by keeping our children smart, happy, involved) than to just let them go the way of violent video games and such.

Has there been any research done to see what other school systems are doing? Is EVERYONE cutting these things when they feel the pinch? It certainly would be worth it to know if this is an option. Where is the information on that?

Thanks for reading.

G35 Dude
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kgray-My 2 cents

I think that the rec department can probably pick up the sports. The things that will suffer are things like debate, model UN, chess club, etc. There just isn't enough interest among the average parent to drive these activities without school support. And that is a shame.

As far as being creative this group doesn't know how. I'd love to hear that the school system was going to undergo something like a Six Sigma review to find and improve inefficiencies. But all this group knows is cut and fire. Don't get me wrong, I have no illusions that a review of process' would save enough to avoid all cuts, but if we could save 10-12 teachers jobs wouldn't that be a good thing to do?

Cyclist
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G35 Dude

Interesting, a 6σ review. Heck, lets not stop with the BOE.

BTW, can someone provide the link to the BOE budget?

Thanks!!!!

Davids mom
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What about business support?

I've noticed in other districts, businesses have partnered with schools to fund some of these extra-curricular activities. Are there businesses in FC that could help us out? Walmart; Publix; Kroger; etc. Some programs are called 'Adopt A School'. (Maybe this program already exists here.)

G35 Dude
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DM-Good Idea

If this exists here I'm not aware of it. I think this is a great idea.

Davids mom
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School Plan

It would seem appropriate for every school district to have a viable community involvement program as part of its overall plan for providing students with a viable education. In other areas, Target has a very meaningful involvement program with school districts. Asking for help with funding, equipment, scholarships for students who may have difficulty affording extra activities, supplying mentors - are just some of the ways our local businesses could help. I keep hoping someone will tell me FC already has such a program.

Joe Kawfi
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Yes, by all means

Let's just throw more money at the problem by implementing another program. It is the parent's responsibility to raise a child and ensure that they are studying and staying in school. It is not the communities responsibility.

kgray
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duplicate

oops I duplicated my comment

Aztecgirl
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Why not close Ptc Elementary

Why not close Ptc Elementary and Oak Grove as well, to save even more money?

suggarfoot
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Dr Todd, Marion Key, and the 3/2 block vote

"The school board in recent years has adopted budgets that have sliced millions off the expenditure side of the budget, though in two of the past three years those adoptions came on 3-2 votes, with board members Key and Bob Todd voting in opposition over what they believed were an insufficient number of budget reductions"

Dr T and Marion have tried for years to reign in the others, that being Wright, Smith, and Smola.

What I find most insincere, devious,and hollow-hearted, is 2 of the 3 above, have told the Tyrone group,in so many words,I've been told, to just call them if they need any help saving their school. Wow! In my eyes talk about shifting the blame!!!

Husband and Fat...
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Suggarfoot, your right

One of our new board members did pander to the Tyrone group in order to get elected. I posted about this because I knew the budget could not sustain the school and the candidate was playing to the emotions of the people or did not truly understand the budget.

We will just have to wait and see the fallout.

Husband and Fat...
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Looks like Mr. Colwell has

Looks like Mr. Colwell has jumped right in and seems to be doing a great job providing the information needed for the board to make informed decisions. I think we are lucky to get such a seasoned professional and I agree that we have to be fair to our present teachers and parapros and let them know asap if they will not be tendered a contract for the next school year. We have many fine individuals that will lose thier jobs and we owe this courtesy to them.

Hate to see that we have to make such drastic cuts, but we can't say we weren't warned by balancing past budgets with previous savings.

Mr. Austensen, thank you for taking the time to help explain the problem clearly.

I know athletics are considered a luxury and education comes first, but I would hope that the board considers keeping the middle school programs. After school athletics help build character, teamwork, school spirit and much more. I would hate for the kids to miss this experience.

The board will have to make a lot of difficut decisions over the next few months. We need to support them.

GeorgeDienhart
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Sports

The only thing close to a silver lining in this school mess are our rec programs. I coached in the Packer (now the Jr. Warrior) program. Great group of adults that have taught many children football. We also have Lacrosse, basketball, soccer and hockey. I think these programs can step in and provide a quality experience for the kids.

Husband and Fat...
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George I Agree

We have many fine people who work with the kids in the recreation and travel programs. But all of those programs cost money. Most school programs for that age are free or minimal costs. I worry about those kids who might not be able to afford the rec programs.

In addition, I have noticed that the costs of the programs my children are involved in all had cost increases, plus the parents still have to spend plenty of time on field upkeep. We also are in limbo regarding the final decisions you and your fellow councilmen have to make regarding the funding.

I also hate to see kids with nothing to do after school. Especially at the middle school age where kids tend to go in the wrong direction. The extra time on thier hands is not a good thing for the community.

It's just a sad situation.

I sent an email to the school board about my positions a few weeks ago. Mr. Presburg was the only one to respond.

amomof3
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Cost of after school activities ...

Nothing is free or minimal in any school activity, sadly.
Middle School Band- $125.00+
Middle School Track- $125.00+
High School Marching Band- $625.00+
High School Band (as a class)- 200.00+
High School Track- $300.00+
High School Swim Team- $400.00+
I am sure football and cheerleading are expensive.

As I write the checks, I often wonder..."what if a parent could not afford this, but the kid has the talent"? We barely can, but we bust our tails so our kids can stay active, involved, learn team building, discipline.....and yes...to stay off the streets!

Husband and Fat...
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I should have figured this out myself

Don't have kids in middle school yet, but I should have known this based on all the fees we pay for silly elementry activities. I too wonder what happens when some parents can't afford it.

I don't like to pay all these fees, but would be more acceptable in the HS level. This is because some kids have discovered what they like by the time they reach HS.

In the elementry and middle school levels (and this is just my opinion), I think that we owe it to the kids to provide as many opportunities as possible, so that they can gain experience and decide for themselves what they like or what they are good at without fees stopping them.

Still think that cutting back on after school activities at this level will result in too much empty time for kids, which will only cause additional trouble. If they must cut this back, I would hope they would put in place some method to evaluate this.

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