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School system to cut budget but not people

POSTED: September 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The Effingham County Board of Education approved nearly $2.4 million in budget cuts at its meeting Thursday night.

The cuts are a result of reductions to the state budget for education.

“These are some difficult economic times, and they are realizing that at the state level as well,” Superintendent Randy Shearouse told the board. “They’re looking at making some cuts to our budget. They are looking at a 2 percent reduction this year and an additional 1 percent next year for a total of 3 percent.”

He said the board develops the budget in the spring and this is not the best time to change the budget. But after working with some of the department heads, there were some recommendations for cuts that could be made.

“We looked at 2 percent,” Shearouse said. “We didn’t want to affect anyone as far as positions that we have currently in place.”

School system employees are getting 2.5 percent pay raises, he added.

He said the reason some money for staff development could be cut from the budget is because of a recent grant received by the high schools that will cover that cost.

“We’re not losing anything as far as staff development goes at the high schools,” Shearouse said.

He said there is some software that the system can postpone purchasing.

Board member Troy Alford asked if there was money set aside for items that were not needed, and if that was why the system could cut the software from the budget.

“It’s still a needed item, but we felt like we could wait for a while,” Shearouse said.

He said the cut for maintenance and operation is due to expected energy savings. The biggest cost in transportation is the buses, and part of their cost is being transferred to special purpose local option sales tax. The system has budgeted $900,000 for fuel this year and spent roughly $840,000 on fuel last year.

“With what’s happening to fuel costs right now, we’re looking pretty good,” Shearouse said.

He said they also included some grant funds and the money from the sale of the land at Guyton Elementary School in revenue.

Shearouse said in order to make up the cuts, there is a heavy burden being placed on ESPLOST this year. He said that is fine for this year, but when the board begins planning the new budget, they will need to look at more areas that can be cut.

“With our county growing the way it has been, we have to build school buildings, and the more we take away from that, the less we have to build,” he said.

Shearouse said that the cuts could be made without eliminating positions or reducing salary, but the system has postponed hiring in some positions that were created.

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