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Hall schools likely to cut staff

POSTED: January 30, 2009 11:51 p.m.

Hall County schools Superintendent Will Schofield said the system is preparing to open school in the fall with $10 million less in its budget and 75 to 100 fewer employees.

Schofield said in preparing for continued economic problems, school system accountants are busy outlining $15 million to $17 million of potential cuts for the board to consider in its fiscal year 2010 budget, which takes effect July 1.

The school board will discuss the budget issues at its Monday work session.

Schofield said the school board could slash $10 million to offset the state’s proposed education cuts for fiscal year 2010 and dwindling state income tax revenue projections. Local sales tax revenues that pay for schools also are down 20 percent, Schofield said.

With 2,100 certified employees in the Hall County school system, personnel expenses account for about 88 percent of the district’s initial $218 million budget this year.

“I know we’re going to have to have school next year with fewer people than we have this year,” Schofield said. “We’re just going to have to go through the process and see what kind of normal attrition we have and make the adjustments necessary.”

The superintendent said he hopes retirements and resignations will account for most eliminated positions. But with an uncertain economy, he said the system could have record low job turnover rates, and thus may be forced to lay off a “handful” of employees to meet budget constraints.

Schofield provided no specific numbers for potential layoffs.

“We aren’t going to be talking about large numbers of people,” he said.

Schofield said the first person to bear the brunt of the $10 million cuts will be himself. His salary will be reduced, and then the board may consider eliminating five to eight district-level positions. Schofield said entire programs are under evaluation and may be eliminated or downsized.

Physical education, music, art, foreign language and gifted programs are not being considered for elimination, Schofield said.

“We’ll all do with a little less, but children aren’t going to not be exposed to music because we’re in tough times,” he said.

Hall County Board of Education Chairman Richard Higgins said many factors remain up in the air regarding the system’s budget. Higgins said the board must devise a plan in case the state does not pay funds for school nurses, or if the General Assembly does not dole out the Homestead Tax Relief Grant, which would cost the district $3.5 million.

“We’ve got some hard choices to make,” Higgins said. “... If we keep the nurses, that’s a few teachers we’ll have to cut.”

Schofield said the system has typically hired about 200 new teachers each year for the past several years.

But this year, he said new hires will be kept to a minimum, “with the potential of the number approaching zero.”



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