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Gainesville City Schools budget approved
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Gainesville City Schools passed its budget for fiscal year 2011 Monday, but it's already due for some amendments.

State officials announced Friday that an additional $14 million in education stimulus money for next year will be pulled to balance this year's budget before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. School officials don't yet know what the cuts will look like for local districts.

"It will reduce next year's revenues," said Janet Allison, chief financial officer for Gainesville schools. "We never know what the picture looks like or how it will change."

Districts usually receive allotment sheets for state money in April, but they still haven't been sent, Gainesville Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said.

"We were forewarned these cuts might happen if revenues were still down," she noted. "They also told us to plan for an additional 4 to 5 percent reduction during the operating year."

The allotment sheets were supposed to be sent to the districts by Monday, she said Monday evening. Additionally, other funding numbers sent on Friday were incorrect and had to be reissued Monday.

"I think it shows they're having a lot of difficulty figuring out where they are," Dyer said.

The final city schools budget passed with $65.7 million in expenditures and $63.3 in revenues, the $2.4 difference being consumed by this year's ending fund balance of $3.3 million. The ending fund balance for June 30, 2011 is predicted to be about $800,000 - a number the board is pleased to see.

"It's reversing the prior trend of ending in deficits," board member Sammy Smith said. "I think it shows the good fiscal management of the staff and the contributions of everyone to bring it back to ending in the black."

Several board members are concerned about upcoming cuts from the state, however.

"Every time we figure out the puzzle, they say there's another piece," board member Maria Calkins said.

Looking toward the end of the fiscal year, the board also began talking about evaluation of the recent school year and Dyer's progress as a superintendent. In particular, board member Delores Diaz had questions about the way achievement and objectives are measured through test scores.

"They don't align. The objective says to increase the achievement of all students in reading, but the CRCT (Criterion- Referenced Competency Tests) measure the increase in achievement," she said. "We don't have that longitudinal measurement."

Dyer agreed, noting this is what she's been concerned about all along with test scores and Adequate Yearly Progress objectives for schools.

"The increase in these grade levels is based on AYP," Dyer said. "We're looking at the group, not the individual."

For example, a student may increase dramatically from year to year, but that is not measured. Test scores are measured by grade level, which doesn't necessarily give an accurate picture of progress, Dyer said.

"That's the flaw of the whole system. It's a measure of a snapshot," she said. "It's the system we labor under. There's a longitudinal growth model proposed by the federal government, but it'll take a long time to implement because the state has to pay for a new test."

The board also discussed its new electronic device policy, particularly regarding cell phone and social networking use, and looked at policies from other Georgia school districts. Board members plan to vote on a new policy in July.