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Gainesville may be able to rehire school employees

Board considers first draft of budget tonight

POSTED: May 17, 2009 10:31 p.m.

This evening, the Gainesville school board will present its first draft of the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, even as it awaits a final deficit figure.

The board is working on a roughly $52 million general fund budget for fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1, said Gainesville schools Chief Financial Officer Janet Allison. That budget does not account for millions of dollars in federal funds, she said.

Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said at this time the board is not planning on increasing property taxes this fall.

But she said the system is in a position to hire back three to five of the 45 part-time or full-time employees whose contracts were not renewed this April. She said several teacher vacancies have opened up at Gainesville Middle School because the system had more retirees this spring than board members predicted.

The Gainesville school system won’t be hiring many though, Dyer said.

“We’re going to staff on the conservative side,” she said. “So if everyone (students) shows up who has said they will, we might have some slightly larger class sizes.”

While class sizes may be larger in the 2009-10 school year than they were this year, Dyer said class sizes will remain below the state maximum.

Four administrative positions left vacant by retirees will be filled this summer by system employees who will transfer to new positions. Dyer said the school board will announce the new elementary school positions tonight.

She said also the board will reduce central office staff by 1.5 positions for the upcoming fiscal year.

Allison said the school system’s finance department has been managing audit after audit.

She said following last year’s revelation the system was running an estimated $5.8 million deficit, several federal and state institutions have audited the system’s Title I program for economically disadvantaged children, as well as the system’s transportation, food services, Medicaid, and gifted and talented programs.

She said all of those audits have found the programs are managed well fiscally, but auditors suggested improvements in the documentation of program procedures.

Allison said the final state audit revealing the system’s exact deficit figure should be complete in early June.

Until then, she said the board is planning to reduce the deficit by $1.8 million by June 30, and reduce it by $2 million by the end of next fiscal year.

“That’s the plan,” Allison said. “We look like we’re on target for it.”

Dyer said all the audits have helped the system to ferret out the root of the deficit problem. She said until the deficit was discovered early last summer, the deficit was masked by poor tracking of employee salaries and benefits which were not reflected in the school system’s budget.

Allison said the school system will spend much of the summer training finance and human resource employees. She said many lingering deficit-related problems will be corrected this summer and the remainder should be fixed by January 2010.

Dyer said Gainesville school officials have been tirelessly correcting internal controls and work flow processes to ensure the causes of the deficit have been corrected.

“It’s been a process of finding what’s wrong and correcting it, finding what’s wrong and correcting it,” she said. “There’s a light. There’s really a light.”



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