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Ga. cuts hurt efforts to trim city schools' deficit

Gainesville system still hacking away at debt that once was millions

POSTED: March 1, 2010 11:47 p.m.

The Gainesville city school system may not reach its goal of eliminating a remaining $780,000 deficit if the state continues to hack away at public school funds.

Since May 2009, the district received $1.4 million less in state funding than anticipated, prompting strict measures to conserve on spending.

Without the cuts, the board would have been well on its way to successfully balancing its budget by the end of this fiscal year, Superintendent Merriane Dyer said. The deficit so far has been trimmed down to less than $1 million from $5.4 million two years ago.

But if more cuts come, the board may not have enough in its budget to support personnel in the coming year.

“We desperately need to have a fund balance going into the fiscal year,” she said following a board work session Monday evening. “We’re doing everything we can.”

In the meantime, the board does not plan to cut any jobs, but some personnel work schedules may be shortened to save money.
Some teachers on 12-month contracts could be downgraded to 10-month schedules, but any changes would be made on a case-by-case analysis, Dyer said.

The block-hybrid schedule currently used at Gainesville High School will continue as planned, allowing students more flexibility. Class choices and Advanced Placement and honors course offerings still will expand.

Funding using a combination of technology funds, state and federal grants is already in place for fiscal year 2011 for more technology-based learning systems at the city’s new nontraditional high school at Wood’s Mill Academy, Dyer added. Wood’s Mill High School is one of the “houses” under the umbrella of Wood’s Mill Academy, which was moved into the old Gainesville Middle School building in January.

The school system approved funding to revamp its Web site, aiming to replace the outdated site with a more professional format, said technology director Keith Palmer. The project will cost about $11,500. The board pushed the site upgrade off earlier in the year to make room for more high-priority projects.

Roofing projects for Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy and Wood’s Mill High School were pushed off for approval at the next board meeting.

Projected cost for the roofing project at Enota was $516,000 and bidding for the Wood’s Mill renovation will begin Tuesday. The Gainesville High School gym has been renovated and will be open to students following spring break this year.

The new Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School building is under way, with a community school committee working to create a building design.

“We are finishing up visits to other schools and seeing examples of two-story models,” Dyer said.



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