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Gainesville school board considers new SPLOST
Money would construct new Fair Street school building
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The Gainesville City Schools board considered Monday adding a special purpose local option sales tax referendum to November’s ballot, which would allot funding to build a new elementary school.

The SPLOST funding would be used for a new Fair Street school. Even if construction has to be delayed until approval of the SPLOST, Dyer advised the board to wait for guaranteed funds before moving forward.

“Our timing is critical,” board member Sammy Smith said. “There’s a long electoral ballot, too, so we need to be able to draw voters’ attention to it.”

The board also passed a tentative budget for fiscal year 2011 of $64.6 million in revenue and $67.7 in expenses, including the general fund, federal funding and $6 million in debt payments. This tentative budget, required by the state Department of Education before July 1, does not include cuts made with 10 furlough days.

A new budget, including furlough days, will be moved before the board at the next full meeting in two weeks.

Some board members started thinking about fiscal year 2012 and discussed how to pay the 12 teachers currently funded by stimulus funds that will expire.

For Superintendent Merrianne Dyer, focus must be on the present.

“Overall state revenues are the bottom line,” she said at the work session. “Stimulus funds are just 12 positions, so state revenues have to pick up or we have to go to the drawing board and do this year’s budget again.”

Board member Willie Mitchell talked about money spent to re-establish the local salary supplement and money saved through the 10 furlough days, asking if “putting money in their pockets and then taking it back is just a wash.”

Dyer said teachers who were polled actually preferred the furlough days over a continuation of the supplement cut.

“When times get better, they’re still on the same scale with salary,” she said. “We’re not trying to restore money to them because we can’t. We don’t have that coming in. The priority in our decision was to keep teachers and programs, not the individual salaries.”

In other business, the board tabled a motion to define the use of electronic devices in classrooms. Members discussed in which settings cell phones should be used and how the school system should be kept accountable for social networking sites. A final decision will be distributed to students and parents as an addition to school handbooks.

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